Not everyone has a goodwill-towards-man mindset when it comes to the holidays. This is also the time law enforcement officials say residents run into unexpected hassles like a surge in home and vehicle break-ins.
Home and car invasions consistently spike in the west end of Ottawa County as the holidays approach, said Genoa Police Chief Bob Bratton. The area’s proximity to Toledo as well as rural settings attract the criminal element, he said. The need for quick cash and drug habits drive the crime sprees.
Prime times for criminals to strike range from between 7 a.m. and noon, the chief added.
Bratton’s experience is based on his serving nearly two terms Ottawa County sheriff prior to becoming chief.
Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said he hasn’t seen a rise in break-in reports so far this year.
“Honestly,” he said, “I think with the economy it’s (something to watch) year round.”
The past few years, he said, activity also surges days after Christmas. That is when presents have been brought home, opened and put on display. He and others warned residents not to advertise their holiday good fortune by placing the discarded boxes in sight for trash pickup.
Looters are looking for their usual quick booty such as electronics, jewelry and cash. But the radar also zooms in on other goodies like presents stashed under the tree or in closets, the chief said.
The best protection, says Bratton: a good neighbor.
“I can’t say it enough. The best deterrent to crime is a good neighbor,” Bratton said.
Alert neighbors have often helped stop crimes or put police officers onto the burglars’ tracks a lot sooner, he said.
“If something doesn’t look right, call us. Let us check it out,” Bratton said.
He reminded Genoa residents that the village police department also has a residential check program.
People going out of town can call the police and make officers aware of lengthy outings.
Through a short questionnaire, police find out general information such as if there are extra keys, when lights should be on and contact information.
A trusted neighbor should also be asked to pick up mail and newspapers, he said.
Other tips to prevent your holidays from being ruined:
Keep bushes trimmed around your windows
Put lights on timers
Don’t display Christmas trees in the front window, thus putting presents in plain sight
Don’t leave purses or wallets in vehicles. And women, don’t place purses on the passenger seat even while traveling.
Locking your vehicles is essential in preventing crime.
“A lot of people in the rural area have a tendency not to lock their cars,” Bratton said. “It’s just seems to be that way.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics website, Ohio crime statistics indicate a total downward trend in crime based on data over 10 years when violent crime was increasing and property crime was decreasing.
Based on this report, the crime rate in Ohio for 2011 is expected to be lower than in 2009 when the state violent crime rate was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 22.19 percent and the state property crime rate was higher than the national crime rate average by 22.12 percent.
Genoa crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data over three years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing, according to the site. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Genoa for 2011 is expected to be higher than in 2009.
According to the site, there were 15 reported burglaries in Genoa in 2009, 49 larceny and theft complaints and two motor vehicle thefts.