Sycamore Township is a safe place to live, work, seek entertainment, and travel to & through. While crime statistics and personal experiences can be debated, this is very much a true statement. However, this past summer we experienced a problem that plagued our community and the communities surrounding us. This problem is frustrating from the police perspective and viewed as a blatant intrusion from the victim-citizen’s vantage point. The problem is vehicle break-ins.
Thefts from motor vehicles parked in residential or retail areas are fast, easy, and often fruitful for the criminal. The crime can be committed quickly. If the vehicle is unlocked there is little or no noise created, so the act doesn’t draw attention. The criminal can be in and out of your vehicle in no time at all, and unless the perpetrator is caught in the act, there is almost never a credible witness to the crime. Surveillance camera systems are a useful tool and a great deterrent. However, the video or images captured can be grainy and unclear, especially if it’s dark. Surveillance footage can give us the basics. The footage can narrow the time frame or give us a basic description of the perpetrator… male or female, large or small in stature… but the footage rarely gives us positive identification or even a solid lead.
During the summer months our citizens reported the theft(s) of wallets, purses, money, cameras, tools, cell phones, duffel bags, laptop computers, and a laundry list of other items. In one specific case, a credit card that was left in plain view in the center console of the vehicle was taken. (See the graph below)
And, to add insult to injury, the citizen reporting the theft feels further victimized when the police explain there is little they can do in most cases. The questions, “did you leave your vehicle unlocked?” or “were the items that were stolen left in plain view?” are off-putting to the victim. These questions are not meant to place blame or suggest a level of negligence on the part of the victim. They are simply asked in order to gather information.
Despite all of this, there are steps every individual citizen can take to greatly reduce our risk. First, we must ALL adopt the mindset that these crimes are EASIER TO PREVENT THAN THEY ARE TO SOLVE. We cannot control which criminal is walking through the parking lot while we’re visiting the mall or down our street late at night, but we can absolutely control how we choose to safeguard our property. Here are two simple things each vehicle owner can do:
- Always – ALWAYS – lock your vehicle. Do it every time, no matter where you are or how long your vehicle will be parked. Many newer models give the owner the ability to program the vehicle to lock all doors automatically when they (and the key fob) walk away from the vehicle.
- Do not leave personal property or anything of value in plain view. Utilize lockable compartments or consoles. Place items in your trunk or take them with you. Constantly remind friends, children, significant others, or spouses to do the same.
As the holiday shopping season approaches it’s important to remember these simple steps. I strongly encourage each and every citizen to maintain strong situational awareness, target-harden, and do your absolute best to safeguard yourselves and your property.
Lieutenant Tory L. Smith
Patrol District 3 Commander
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office