October 17, 2019

When It Comes To Crime, It Is Best To Watch Out

Someone once said that you can prove anything with statistics and they are right.  As we read the papers and listen to the news, we get the false impression that crime is on the way out in metropolitan Detroit.  Yes, there are those sensational domestic crimes that result in the death of loved ones and it seems that children go missing daily.  There are drug deals gone bad and the drive-by senseless shootings but the reports keep coming – violent crime is down.

Now I think overall violent crime may not be as high as it was years ago due to a lot of factors.  Population in high crime areas has gone down as people get fed up and leave the area.  Criminals are arrested and are taken off the streets, but non-violent crime over all is going way up.  This I think is due in part to the high unemployment and the benefit loss for many individuals and families.  As budget constraints hit cities across southeastern Michigan, less police or “safety” officers as they are now called are on the streets.  What disturbs me the most is the unscrupulous metal dealers that “ask no questions” when they pay out hundreds and thousands of dollars for metal that they have to know is stolen property.  Two of the highest crimes in the area where I live are “theft from garages” and “theft from automobiles.”

Local businesses struggle to protect their property.  Copper pipes, air conditioning units, catalytic converters from trucks and automobiles, and air compressors are just a small sample of the hot items stolen daily.  Apartment complexes are a major target as automobiles are left unprotected in parking lots and carports overnight.  It is unsafe now to leave a car in your own drive overnight in some areas.  It seems that some people never learn easily.  Every day the local crime watch list dozens of automobiles that were broken into to retrieve items left in the car – locked or not-locked.  PC’s, mobile telephones, iPods, DVD players, wallets, purses, radios, navigation units, GPS units, and packages are stolen everyday – I could go on indefinitely.  Another area where theft has become a daily occurrence is shopping malls.  Shopping malls lead the statistics in stolen automobiles.  It is easier to break in an auto in a parking lot of a major mall and just drive off.  By driving off to an area away from people and congestion, the criminal element is able to strip the auto of many of its components including the rims and tires.

Vacant houses are now the target of copper and metal thieves.  Pipes are removed; metal ducts are stolen; heating vents and aluminum siding is stripped from houses and garages – even furnaces are fair game.  What is even more alarming is the rash of “home invasions” that occur daily.  Elderly residents are an easy target.  I am not sure where it will all end.

Neighborhood watches have been very successful in some areas to combat thieves driving in and parking and then walking the streets to “surf for high theft items.” Bicycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and porch furniture are items that can be quickly removed from a garage or porch and thrown into a truck for a quick drive off.  What can one do today in this theft crazy, lack of morals, society we live in?

Garages should not be left open all day as in the past; side doors with access to a garage should be locked and secured at all times – dead bolts are almost mandatory for all exterior doors to a house or garage; valuable items should never be left in a car regardless of whether it is locked or not and regardless of where it is parked.  People assume that cars or trucks, left parked in their own driveway, is somehow a form of protection – wrong.   Porch furniture should never be left out at night  and for a few pennies a day, exterior lighting is a real crime deterrent.   Alarms systems are definitely a plus but do not act as much of a deterrent in cases of garage or exterior theft.    A professional thief can bypass just about any security measure but what is important is to make it difficult for the novice who is looking for a quick strike.

We live in a society today that seems to accept theft as a way of life.  Shoplifting is okay as long as you don’t get caught; people embezzle from their employers all the time; scams abound on the Internet; identity theft is skyrocketing; and even personal assaults are on the rise.  It would almost seem that “why buy it, if you can steal it” is the current slogan.  In our lifetime, there is a good chance that every American at one time or another will be affected by some form on non-violent crime.  So in most cases as the old saying goes, “the best offense is a good defense.”

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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