Sylvania City & Township police departments are reporting an increase in criminal activity involving parked cars, and officials are asking the public to take preventative measures.
The Sylvania Township Police Department has responded to an increasing amount of thefts from vehicles in the past few weeks and is urging residents to take precautions to protect their vehicles and belongings. The department is increasing criminal patrols and surveillance in these areas.
The Sylvania Township Police Department encourages residents to lock cars, remove the valuable property, and never leave keys in the car even when parked in your garage. Thefts from autos are crimes of opportunity, most often involving thieves breaking into vehicles by testing door handles and finding those that are unlocked to steal items left unattended or out in plain view.
The department also encourages notification to police when illegal or suspicious behavior is observed.
The car break-ins remain under active investigation by the Sylvania Township Police Department, and anyone who believes they may have information that could help detectives solve them is asked to call the department at (419) 882-1250 or Crime Stoppers (419) 255-1111.
“Catalytic converters were getting stolen quite a bit, and now the car break-ins when people are just leaving things in plain view, not locking their doors,” said Sylvania Township Police Department's Lieutenant of Operations, Robert Austin. “It happens this time of year, it happens in the summer months too. It’s all the time.”
Lt. Austin explained that while most criminal activity surrounding vehicles is random, that is not always the case.
“It’s a crime of opportunity. And they usually hit certain areas, and when they hit certain areas they kind of stay there a little bit,” said the Lieutenant. “Sometimes it is the case that it is organized, and a group of them will go through and hit a neighborhood. Maybe a group of two, three or four. And sometimes it’s just an individual walking though the neighborhood who tries the door, tries the lock. Most of the thefts are just that, an individual walking around. But you do get the organized groups once in a while.”
Austin said that home security systems do aid the authorities in their fight against crime.
“It does help when we have videos, and get a description, such as if they carry a backpack," explained Austin. "Door cameras and security cameras definitely do help."
"Right now we are increasing our commercial parking lot patrols, because there are a lot of gifts being left in plain view, and we get a lot of cars broken into there," added Austin. "We are going through the neighborhoods more often too, especially with packages being delivered now.
City of Sylvania Police Division Chief Rick Schnoor said that he is seeing a difference in the City of Sylvania now too.
"Just since the beginning of the month of November, about the tenth or so, is when we started to see an issue here in the city," explained Chief Schnoor. "We’ve had seven car break-ins."
Chief Schnoor said that although he typically sees a trend similar to this every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this year has been unusual.
"We’ll sometimes have kids in the neighborhood going through an unlocked car looking for change or electronics," Schnoor said. "But a lot of these cars, the windows were actually broken. It’s not just going through an unlocked car. They are actually breaking into someone’s vehicle. So that’s a little concerning to us."
Schnoor said that these recent break-ins were all mostly in commercial areas, along the the Monroe Street and Alexis Road corridors.
"Car break-ins, by and large, are rare in the city," added the chief. "The city didn’t experience this kind of activity last year."
Schnoor said that the city has not seen an escalation in shoplifting.
"We are seeing a little bit of shoplifting, but since October 1 we’ve only had three shoplifting incidents in the city, so that’s still relatively low," Schnoor said. "But the car break-ins we are seeing, typically we only have one or less a month. And we’ve had seven this month alone, so it is something to be aware of."
The City of Sylvania Police Division does have some advice for residents.
"The central theme is, one, make sure your car is secure, keep the doors locked," advised Schnoor. "And two, you have got to keep those valuables out of sight. Every single one of these break-ins that we’re seeing on a vehicle, there is something of value in sight. A briefcase, a backpack, a purse, those types of things. If the car is locked, and the thief doesn’t see anything that they want to take, they’re not going to break in. You take away either one of these two elements and the crime is probably not going to happen."
Chief Schnoor said that residents will definitely see a difference in the city's policing in the coming weeks.
“People will see more officers around the shopping centers in the City of Sylvania and the places where people congregate, like on Monroe Street," said Schnoor. "Anywhere from Dave White Chevrolet all the way east to the city limits. Those businesses are very busy with a lot of in and out traffic, especially around the Promedica wellness center. You will see more of a presence in those areas with our officers. And in and around the Kroger complexes, you will see officers, maybe even in the lobbies of stores or right around the parking lots, just to be a resource there if a citizen needs anything, and also to try and head off some of this issue."
Residents will also be seeing a bit more of the officers as the holidays approach, as they get into the holiday spirit. While the annual "Shop with a Cop," was canceled due to COVID, a creative replacement has been put on the schedule along with a few other events.
"The police department will be participating in a statewide event called 'Light Ohio Blue,' bringing awareness to officers who were injured or killed in the line of duty," said Schnoor. "For the holidays, we are doing a Santa parade, taking gifts to kids. We also plan to help deliver the Sylvania Area Family Services holiday baskets, and will be involved with the lighting up of downtown Sylvania for Miracle on Main."
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