By Bob Ball
An uptick in south county burglaries and larcenies? Posts on a social media site in recent weeks appeared to indicate one.
Police chiefs Scott Boling in Schoolcraft and Scott Sanderson in Vicksburg aren’t seeing it in their villages. But Capt. Jeff Christiansen of the Kalamazoo County sheriff’s Operations Division acknowledged an increase in stolen vehicles and thefts from vehicles in rural areas, calling them crimes of opportunity.
And he added many can be prevented by ending the opportunities.
In all of Kalamazoo County, “We’ve had a lot of larcenies in cars left running or with the keys in them,” said Christiansen. “You’re certainly prone to having your car stolen if you leave the keys in it. At this time of year, people run into the store, leaving the car unlocked and running.
“The biggest thing is to protect yourself. Put a lock on your trailer. Don’t leave keys in your car. Don’t leave valuables in the vehicle. If you leave computers, phones, tablets, it’s an invitation for someone.”
And more might be prevented with the use of video surveillance camera, which Christiansen noted have become affordable.
Christiansen said home theft “is down significantly. It may be because a lot of people are working from home. But in the middle of the night, larcenies from vehicles are up significantly.”
He acknowledged that rural areas ordinarily are “more susceptible to home break-ins. Homes are unattended during the day.” But recently, he said, “We’re having very few of those.”
“Crimes of opportunity are the easiest to commit,” Sanderson said. “They see a laptop in an unlocked car, take the laptop and walk off. That’s what a lot of these are. “Someone walks into an open garage, sees a set of golf clubs and leaves with it.”
“For prevention, I think there are a couple of things to do,” Boling said. “First of all, have contact with neighbors and establish relations with the neighborhood and the people around you. You look out for them they look out for you…. If you’re getting packages delivered, have a neighbor grab them. Make sure you lock your car up at night. Leave a light on during nighttime hours. Those can stop a lot of theft.”
In Vicksburg, Sanderson said, “We do a lot of neighborhood canvassing. Officers walk around, knock on doors, talk to folks, ask if there are any issues. Hey, if you see something, give us a call! If there’s an issue, call. Sometimes people don’t know if they should call or not. We say call.”
Christiansen noted that video surveillance cameras “are an emerging tool. They’re no longer cost-prohibitive. A lot of those systems are based on some kind of wi-fi service,” he said, capable not only of notifying the owner if there’s a break-in, but reaching out to a monitoring service which can notify a law enforcement agency.
Some of the systems, he added, can notify their customers near the site of an incident, asking them to check their own surveillance systems to see if they recorded anything that might be useful to police. “That’s a new feature that came up recently,” Christiansen said.
By Bob Ball