Real facts about break-ins
By Matt Echelberry
You arrive home after work and find the back door ajar. In the middle of the night, you hear the sound of a window being shattered or a security alarm sounding off. These are moments that create fear and a sense of insecurity in your own home, but what is the real risk of your home being broken into?
Just as with any other community, residential break-ins are not uncommon in Galion. Police Chief Brian Saterfield compiled a Uniform Crime Statistics report for Galion, Bucyrus, Crestline and Crawford County for the years 2010–2012. For burglary reports (not all of which were substantiated), the Galion Police Department received 134 calls in 2010, 152 for 2011 and 148 in 2012. By comparison, Bucyrus police reported 272 burglary cases last year.
In January of 2013, Saterfield reported there were 11 calls for the month, but again not all were substantiated. He said there has been no real increase or decrease overall, but noted a slight increase during the months of November and December, which is common around Christmas time for any community.
However, Saterfield wished to assure residents that his department does see where crimes are happening and knows how this type of criminal typically operates. People who commit a breaking and entering usually work in groups: One person commits the crime, another might be driving and there might be a lookout.
Looking at where the cases are occurring, Saterfield said break-ins are scattered throughout the city and not relegated to specific neighborhoods. There are no real patterns that his department has seen. He explained it might appear that a specific street or neighborhood is being targeted sometimes because criminals usually work in a two to three block radius in a given night, then move on to another area in a sort of cat-and-mouse game. There might be multiple calls in one area in a single night, but then another area is targeted the next.
What to look for
The answer might seem obvious, but residents should be “aware and observant” of what goes on in their area. When someone or something seems out of place, Saterfield advises to get as detailed of a description as possible of people and vehicles, and when and where suspicious activity occurs.
People should not be afraid to call the police, even when a matter seems trivial. “We need their help; we can’t be everywhere at once. All information from the public can be helpful,” Saterfield said. Even if something minor such as loose change being taken from a car is reported, it helps officers determine if there is a larger problem and look at a bigger picture of illegal activity.
Phone calls from residents help, even if the tip is based on a rumor. Saterfield explained that the tip can create a starting point for his department, and possible suspects can be identified or ruled out. Bottom line: Do not be apathetic, the Police Department wants calls from citizens.
Residents should also communicate with neighbors, especially if they are going out of town. You can also call the Police Department to request an officer to do a house check periodically.
As far as preventing a break-in from happening in your home, most precautions are common sense: Lock all doors and windows, make sure security lighting is working properly, do not put valuables in plain sight and make it look like someone is home. Saterfield said that residents should simply “make their homes difficult to hit.”
When you buy new things, especially electronics, do not put the empty boxes of those products outside until trash pick up day. Also, mark your property in some way, such as putting a label on it or keep a database of the serial numbers on any important or expensive items.
If your home is broken into, the Police Department asks that the victim does not touch any potential evidence, including point of entry, anything that is damaged or any other materials that may have fingerprints on them.
While waiting for police to arrive, note anything missing or damaged. When an officer arrives, expect some fingerprint dusting and pictures to be taken. If any of your belongings are found, in some cases the items must go through the court system first, so your property may not be returned immediately.
For more tips—on keeping neighborhoods safe from crime and drug activity—check out Crawford: 20/20 Vision’s “What to Watch For” campaign on its website (www.crawford2020.com) or by picking up a pamphlet from the Police Department.
If you see any suspicious activity near your home, you are encouraged to contact the police.
Galion Police Department: 419–468-9111
Confidential tip line: 419–468-3480
Crawford County Sheriff’s Office: 419–562-7906
You may also sign up for the new emergency mass notification system, CodeRED. Go to the City of Galion website (http://www.ci.galion.oh.us/) and click on the logo, or call the City at 419–468-1680.