August 21, 2014

Elyria
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String of break-ins in Elyria


Police see pattern in burglaries on city’s north side

ELYRIA — On the quiet streets lined with well-manicured lawns on the north side of town, police cruisers have become a familiar sight.

Between June and September, there were 18 break-ins and burglaries in the area, with residents reporting everything from wallets to weed whackers to jewelry being stolen.


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And while no one has been arrested, police say they have noticed a clear pattern that could lead them to the culprits.

Most incidents occurred in the early morning or late evening hours while homeowners were either not home or asleep.

The intruders didn’t linger too long in one home. They grabbed what was in sight and got out before anyone knew they were there.

Many purses and wallets were grabbed from kitchen counters and later discarded on the street minus money and credit cards.

“The frequency and method of the crimes leads police to believe that the suspects involved may live in the area or at least be very familiar with the area,” Elyria police Detective Andy Eichenlaub said.

About two weeks ago, Jason L. Fada, of Pepperdine Drive, reported to police that someone must have jumped over a 7-foot privacy fence before walking through his unlocked back door and stealing his wallet and his girlfriend’s purse.

“We were asleep during all that,” Fada said. “We didn’t even know anything was wrong until about 5:30 in the morning when my girlfriend woke up to find our dog in the backyard and not inside the house.”

Fada now admits that leaving his back door unlocked was a mistake and one he will never make again.

“We are not that trusting anymore. We got a security alarm on the house and motion detector lights in the backyard,” he said. “They only got into the kitchen, but we don’t want to give them another opportunity to get anywhere else next time.”

Eichenlaub said Fada’s assumption that crime will not happen to him is shared by many people — until they become victims.

“A lot of people do live in safe neighborhoods, but they have to know — because of that — people are always willing to take advantage of their comfort levels,” he said. “We have become such a mobile society and you never know who is in your neighborhood.”

For William Morales, of Gulf Road, realizing that his trusting nature made him a target is not a comforting thought.

“It’s some sort of crime wave going on over here and it seems like it’s the good people that are being hurt,” he said.

Morales said he and his wife, Irmgard, have enjoyed living on the city’s north side for 25 years. He said they felt so safe in their neighborhood, they frequently left doors unlocked and windows open. But that carefree way of living all came to an end in August.

Returning home after having dinner with friends, the couple walked into their home to find it had been ransacked by intruders while they were away.

They discovered someone had kicked in their side door. The couple’s dog, which they had always thought would be a deterrent for such crimes, had been locked in a bathroom by the intruder or intruders.

“It was really a shock,” Morales said, “to know someone was inside my house, going through our things was unsettling. I’m just thankful they didn’t hurt my dog.”

The Moraleses discovered that jewelry and cash had been taken from their home. While the money will never be found, the couple is hoping the jewelry, many pieces of which had sentimental value — like his wedding ring and a bracelet Irmgard received from her mother in Germany — will be found.

What can residents do to prevent such things from happening to them?

Lock up the house at all times, Eichenlaub said. Lights, sounds and attention are three things burglars avoid like the plaque.

“Burglars often wander unnoticed through communities before striking. They are looking for the soft targets,” Eichenlaub said.

And, they are pretty smart about figuring out who those easy targets are.

Burglars caught in the past have admitted to police they scope out homes, looking for ones where yard toys and basketball hoops are visible because those are signs that a family — with a normal family routine — resides in the home. At dusk, the burglars return to these homes. If there are no lights or televisions on, they break in, confident that the family is not at home.

While a rash of burglaries is a relatively new occurrence on the north side of Elyria, Eichenlaub said crimes against homes happen all over.

“It’s not just the north side or just Elyria,” he said. “It’s all over the county and the state.”

Eichenlaub has a theory about the upsurge in the number of burglaries and why they are becoming much harder to solve.

Younger criminals are emerging, and they are more brazen than criminals of the past, he said. Plus, they are smart. They are being thoroughly educated in police procedures by crime shows like “CSI” and “Law & Order.”  As a result, they often leave little behind — except a string of victimized homeowners.

“They didn’t just take our property, they took our peace of mind, too,” Morales said.

“My wife doesn’t want to stay home alone and we can’t even go out to the backyard without making sure we lock up our house."

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.