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Published: Tuesday, 10/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Nothing off limits in thefts from vehicles

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The police scanner crackled just minutes before 1 p.m. Monday – people fleeing after trying to break into cars on Toledo's east side, a dispatcher said.

Not an unusual call – thefts from vehicles happen every day – but these are the types of crime that are, often times, unsolvable and endlessly frustrating for police.

“They don't take up a whole lot of time, but they're difficult to follow up,” said Toledo police Lt. Dan Gerken, who oversees the department's property crimes section. “ ... Usually it's an unknown suspect with no witnesses.”

Anything is up for grabs – you name it, it's been taken, Lieutenant Gerken said.

A little more than a week ago, police found a car in the 6300 block of West Bancroft Street that had been broken into – some of its contents were scattered on the street nearby.

What was taken? A Toledo Police Department manual, a binder, notebooks, a police academy schedule, and pocket guides to traffic and criminal laws.

Nothing is off limits and it happens all the time.

Sometimes the end result is for less change than it would cost to buy a pound of bananas at the grocery store.

Just ask Ashley Rantamaki, 22. Her car has been broken into twice in less than a year.

The first time, reported to police on Oct. 24, 2011, her car was parked in the 3900 block of West Bancroft Street.

The thief smashed a window and took her wallet – which had her credit cards and driver's license inside – and a video recorder.

About two weeks ago, her car was broken into again. Someone smashed her window -- again -- but all they took was 36 cents.

After the most recent break-in, she covered her window with a piece of cardboard, “How's the 36 cents?” written in heavy black letters.

“The only thing I can tell you to make 'em stop is to stop leaving valuables in your car,” Lieutenant Gerken said. “It only takes seconds to occur. If you don't have anything of value in your car they can't take anything. … There is no other trick.”

Police from other area departments say the same thing – lock your car doors and take your stuff with you.

“I would advise everybody to lock their car up,” said Sylvania police Chief William Rhodus. “I have a firm belief that you should make it hard on the thief. Don't make it easy for them.”

Even leaving something valuable unattended for a moment – say, when stopping at a convenience store – is risky.

Chief Rhodus said, recently, a woman was at a Sylvania gas station, filled up her tank, and ran into the store.

Though she was only in the store for maybe a few minutes, a man who was using a nearby pump “helped himself” to her purse, which she left inside the car.

The man was arrested a few hours later, the chief said, after he used the woman's credit card.

Criminals live everywhere – and motivated thieves travel to suburban areas looking for an opportunity to strike.

“We have problems just like anybody,” said Perrysburg Deputy police Chief Mike Gilmore. “ … People need to make sure that they lock their doors and take their valuables in. You know, sometimes that can be a problem for us because people feel safe and they leave their stuff in their cars and all of a sudden it gets broken into.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at:

tdungjen@theblade.com

or 419-724-6064.



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