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Posted on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 8:02 p.m.

'We need to secure ourselves,' Ann Arbor police chief tells residents from city's northwest side

By Ronald Ahrens

Yes, it’s Ann Arbor, but residents need to lock their doors and windows. Close the garage. And get a burglar alarm.

That was the message Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones delivered to about 85 citizens tonight at the Ann Arbor Community Center. The turnout was in response to a recent series of daytime burglaries on the city’s northwest side.

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Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones led a meeting at the Ann Arbor Community Center Tuesday evening for residents concerned about an increase in break-ins on the west side.

Melanie Maxwell |

The break-ins have occurred between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and followed the same pattern. The burglar has rung doorbells, then entered through the rear windows of unoccupied homes. Most cases involved unlocked windows and cut screens, although in one incident a blunt object was used to smash glass. On a single occasion, entry was gained through the second floor, indicating the burglar is “very agile,” Jones said.

“He has taken laptops and small items he could run with,” he said. “I believe, as an old police officer, this person is pretty comfortable in that neighborhood.”

Police are investigating a couple leads, including reports of a suspicious man with a backpack and of a man who knocks at front doors and, in one instance, asked for “Veronica Evans.”

The course now is to “rattle some doors and make someone uncomfortable,” Jones said. “We plan on getting him.”

Meanwhile, Jones said it’s time for people to start putting the garage door down.

“I can see the trend, and the trend is that we need to secure ourselves.”

Other towns such as Canton, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills are also experiencing an increase in break-ins, for which Jones blamed the economic conditions. “Now is not the time, because of what’s gone on in the economy, that you can go out without locking your doors.”

Detective Michael Lencioni told the audience investigators believe the burglar has been seen by many people because of his doorbell-ringing. So far, no vehicle has been observed in direct connection with the man, but “many tips” have come in.

He said investigators are interested in any information and encourage people to call the police department.

Julia Blough brought her 8-month-old son Emmett to the meeting to hear what officials had to say.

"It's been pretty useful," said Blough, a resident of Garden Homes Park subdivision. "I also wanted to see how other people reacted."

Questions and comments from residents covered a wide range of subjects, from tall weeds that might obscure sightlines between houses to whether it's OK to shoot an armed intruder.

Ronald Ahrens is a freelance writer for



Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 12:46 a.m.

"we need to secure ourselves"......okay AAPD BUT.... I do, I did and my home was STILL broken into. It is a horrible feeling to enter your home at 9 am in the morning and find that the secure door to your patio, with triple deadbolts has been kicked in. It was September 9th of 2003 and it feels like yesterday at times. Only 1 hr had passed since anyone was home. I think the intruder ran back out of the house when I drove into the driveway and raised the garage door to drive into the garage. But I had no way of knowing that, I entered through the garage to mudroom door and proceeded to the kitchen. My mind could not understand what I was seeing, the French door swinging/hanging on a hinge, the woodwork shattered, the muddy footprints entering on the floor....and then I saw the muddy footprint on the exterior of the door near the handle as I approached the scene and I knew that someone had kicked in the door and MAY BE in my home. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I ran out the front door and called 911 from a neighbor's porch. To their credit, the A2 police came very quickly and entered the home with guns drawn. I am not sure at what point he left, and I say he because of the size of footprints and sheer force to breakdown the very best, secure expensive door that we had installed a few years earlier to replace cheap aluminum sliders. No one was found after a tour of the house and the officers came to get me and escort me back to take inventory. The insurance company sent people to board it up and I was left staring at the site and wondering what about my house among the hundreds of like homes in northeast A2 made me a target. I have the most lighted house on the block, always lock my doors, even if I am in the backyard. The police answered my question by saying that 'everyone in A2 has expensive, easy to carry items in their homes'. I think the person walked along, may have knocked on doors looking for no answer and then came into the backyard to break-in. In broad daylight. This is the second time we have had a break-in since moving to A2, the first was in the late 70's while living on the Old West Side on the third floor of an apartment building. I woke up at 7 am and saw our curtains blowing out the patio door to our very small balcony. Our checkbook was on the floor of the balcony. And the jewelry and wallet and watches that were stolen had been on a dresser in our bedroom, feet from where we were sleeping. The officer that time implied that we were pretty stupid to think we could leave a third story sliding door partly slid open for air at night, because apparently, burglers in Ann arbor have spider-man like qualities and scale brick walls. Both times we were lucky to have our personal safety. But I want to live in a zero-tolerance town for this kind of break-in. We should be known as a town where you don't get away with stealing, or B & E, not as a town with a slew of homes stuffed with $$$ items just ripe for the picking. So even if someone accidently leaves a door unlocked, it is not an invitation to a societal miscreant to enter and plunder. Ann Arbor Police, PLEASE make our city safe and to everyone out there, be careful, it could happen to you.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 12:35 p.m.

I'm surprised this hasn't happened sooner. All the miscreant has to do is look for the peace signs, bumper stickers, etc to maximize his odds of finding a soft target and not the business end of a shotgun. In the unlikely event that he's caught (again) he knows he'll be back out on the street in short order.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 7:41 a.m.

This is an issue of common sense. Doors and windows have locks for a reason. People need to take responsibility for their own communities. Stop leaving the boxes from your new tv or computer on the curb. You might want to impress your neighbors, but you are just advertising for criminals. The People's Republic of Ann Arbor is not immune from crime. Liberals cannot wish away crime because they want people to get along. Jackson is at one end of I-94 and Detroit is at the other end. In between is Ypsilanti, and Toledo is just south on US-23. These are all high crime areas whose criminals will plunder Ann Arbor like ants at a picnic. The police have better things to do that write reports for your insurance company. It's common sense. Lock your Doors. Lock your windows.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 6:54 a.m.

Have all of the break-ins been north of Miller and south of M-14? That seems like a pretty small area to patrol.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 5:40 a.m.

"Yes, its Ann Arbor, but residents need to lock their doors and windows. Close the garage. And get a burglar alarm." And perhaps a new police chief? And maybe some of the feedback on questions and comments from residents would have...been a bit more helpful than PR talking points from the Chief.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 2:49 a.m.

Macabre Sunset, go troll somewhere else, will you?


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 11:11 p.m.

St Julian, why do you assume the police are not using stake outs?

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 10:29 p.m.

We're already seeing the effects of Jenny's let-everyone-out-of-jail and close everything down politics. Not her problem. I wouldn't blame it on the economy. Michigan's economy has been bad for quite a while now.

Steve Feinman

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 8:31 p.m.

It owuld seem the best option would be for the police to catch the thief. some cities use stake outs to do that. A2 uses wishful thinking