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Posted on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Rash of thefts from vehicles prompts warning from Ann Arbor police

By Kyle Feldscher

A recent uptick in thefts from vehicles on the south side of Ann Arbor concerned police enough to send out a crime alert this week.


Courtesy of Ann Arbor police

Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said there were 23 larcenies from vehicles in Jan., 27 in February and 14 so far in March. She said that’s an increase from prior years and most of the incidents occurred in the Eisenhower Boardwalk area in February. In many of the cases, thieves smashed windows to steal items from the vehicles.

“That’s primarily in March,” she said. “In January and February, it was through unlocked doors.”

While the crime alert indicated the break-ins were mostly reported on the city’s south side, Bush said there have been larcenies reported throughout the city.

Detective Lt. Robert Pfannes said the suspect, or suspects, has been walking through parking lots during the daytime hours and looking in vehicles’ windows until he or she finds an item of value in plain sight. The person then either opens an unlocked door or smashes the window to take the purse, phone or other item.

The crimes share similarities with a recent rash of larcenies from vehicles in Saline.

Police there reported eight vehicles have been broken into in Saline since Jan. 21, mostly along Woodland Drive and East Michigan Avenue. However, Detective Don Lupi said police haven’t found a connection between those thefts and the ones in Ann Arbor.

“I worked with the Ann Arbor Police Department on theirs and I don’t see a connection,” Lupi said, adding he thinks the Saline thefts are the work of local residents.

Although the incidents have been widespread in Ann Arbor, it doesn’t seem as if the break-ins have bled into Pittsfield Township.

Pittsfield Township Deputy Police Chief Gordy Schick said someone recently stole a gun from a vehicle. However, the incident doesn’t appear connected to a larger trend.

“Luckily, we haven’t had anything like that,” he said.

Ann Arbor police officials are now warning citizens to take proper measures to keep themselves from becoming victims.

Bush said the best way to keep an intruder out of your vehicle is to keep anything of value hidden.

“Keep your doors locked. Don’t leave valuables that you can see through the windows,” she said. “Hide your valuables or take them with you and make sure you’re parking in well-lit spots.”

Here's a map showing the locations of vehicle break-ins around Ann Arbor this year:

View 2013 Ann Arbor Auto Larcenies in a larger map

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Elaine F. Owsley

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

An ounce of prevention - not to mention common sense - would prevent a lot of this. Why do adults smart enough to drive cars have to be told to lock their doors and hide their valuables? Where do these folks think they are? I'm sure even Kansas has problems with careless people. I still think that any "crime" where the thieves are invited like this should require payment by the owner for police time cleaning up after their mistakes.

Just Be Nice

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

I hope that one day you are "careless" and learn what it feels like to be a victim of a theft from your vehicle (home, etc.). Oh wait, you are perfect. There is no room for error in your world. Show some compassion for these victims. You have no idea of the circumstances behind the incidents. Everyone has their own story to tell. No matter how careful you are, bad things happen. I know.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

I don't know about the rest of you, but the pattern I see looking at that map makes me want to say "I'm attacking Siam from Borneo with five dice."

David Conrad

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

You just won the internet!


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

Thefts raging here in OZ...oh the horror of it all ..this is the land of dreams and fantasy...not reality..but take heart just follow the yellow brick rd. to city hall and the talking heads will make everything right .....yeah....


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

Re: Statements to the effect that we "should have enough police" to actually prevent crime. We'd like to hear: when & where it was that there were enough police to be present at every crime? This must have been during the famous Golden Age of Police Presence. But I've never heard of it. Projecting from the approximate rule for rationing / budgeting police ( it's ~ 1000 citizens per cop). That's close to the standard used in every city in the U.S. So to "actually prevent crime" - it follows that we'd need closer to a 1:1 citizen-to-cop ratio. So that statement and viewpoint is like asking the question, "Where's my personal cop?" Since we can have only 1/1000th of a cop per person, isn't it kinda crazy to be expecting 1 cop per person? If you Google "car safes suppliers" - you'll get 75,500,000 hits. This indicates that there are a whole lot of people who think taking personal responsibility for protecting their property is, uh, "a bit more sensible" than the idea of depending on massive police staffing. Isn't the practice of calling for continual government / police protection from every single hazard also suggesting that the proponents don't feel they should go to the trouble of protecting themselves? Yeah, I think I've heard that somewhere before. ;-)

Milton Shift

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 10:13 a.m.

A voice of sanity. Thank you.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 1:02 a.m.

@hail2thevictoria: We agree that nostalgia has value to all of us and that it's sad to see the increased incidents of crimes which victimize us - seemingly without end. You've obviously taken care of your responsibility for a realistic amount of self protection. But I wasn't criticizing either people's nostalgia or the majority who do take care of their own property. I criticized people who're motivated to call for more police protection following every crime story. I disagree only on the point where someone responds to a police advisory calling for simple security measures (like the ones featured in this article) by implying crime could be ended if we'd only get ourselves a police force sufficiently large to stop all these crimes. That would take one cop for each of us, meaning a police force of about 114,000. I don't think people making such statements are reacting out of nostalgia. I think they're politically / ideologically motivated and committed to the general notion that we need more government protection, services, etc. In politics, this strategy is called "populist" or "demagogic." Any politician who tells us we'll get "more" of anything without also being honest about the cost and other negative consequences is just fishing for votes. Such populists have supporters: and you can be sure those supporters will join in calling for "more" even when it's impossibly impractical or hopelessly foolish.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

I just think that people are nostalgic for the times in Ann Arbor when people didn't have to lock their doors and know that nothing would happen. Those days are over now. I heard about this increase in thefts a while ago so I have been taking my valuables into every store with me. I don't even trust leaving my things in the trunk. If a thief is watching they can smash your window and pop the trunk if they are brazen enough to smash the window and steal in daylight. These criminals have no shame and it's ugly.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

Can't wait till the warmer weather comes, they'll have twice as many.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

I would love to have a time delayed device that would explode like a douche with ink, paint or bad smell, etc. Is there anything like this available?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

"She said that's an increase from prior years and most of the incidents occurred in the Eisenhower Boardwalk area in February." Lets see. common sense math here. A bunch of hotels + $10 a month fitness club with no cameras and little to none after hours oversight (1 0n 1 athletic club) = multiple vehicle larcenies.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

It sounds like the hotels have the security problem. They don't have any more after hours oversight that 1 on 1, and apparently they should invest in some cameras as well as people to monitor them. Maybe it was the Damon's crowd.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Well, it looks like the Plymouth road corridor is the only remaining unused section of this spree, so keep your eyes open. Maybe the News could set up a bait car and ask for an interview to see what their motive actually is. It's just redistribution, folks. If you leave valuables out in the open, you are maybe subconsciously asking yourself to make a charitable donation to some poor unfortunate soul who's down on their luck are making better tax free money than an MSN reporter. Good for the autoglass businesses, too. They may have kids wanting to attend college or take nice vacations to a warmer climate.

Ann English

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

I notice that the "French" subdivision off Zeeb Road has escaped the reach of these thefts. Maybe the burglaries committed there not so long ago helped wisen them up. When I noticed that a car was broken into on Pear Street, my first thought was that bags of food from the food pantry on Taylor Street were taken. The others appear to be mostly from business parking lots or those of apartments/townhouses/condominiums. It took boldness to break into a car on Sagebrush Circle, but perhaps that was done at night.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

That's a really large number of blue flags indicating car robberies. It sure would be nice to have enough police to actually prevent crime as opposed to just report on it. I'm sure the mayor is pleased that we report on crime so efficiently.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Are you shocked, considering that there are 2.28 cars per household in the United States? How many police exactly should be patrolling? Get a grip man.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

How much is enough police to "actually prevent crime?"


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

Because windows are being smashed to take high value items.....I'm going to say this is career criminal behavior...not some kids "car shopping." Kids look for unlocked doors in order to steal....they don't smash windows. If they do...they smash the window for the sake of smashing the window. Remember to do more than just lock your car doors....put valuables OUT OF SIGHT too. Hide your stuff inside the center console, the glove box, under the seat, or any storage place that has a lid or cover to it.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Yes Billy. Good common sense. Also, when I lived in the big city, we were taught that when you put something in your trunk in a public place, to move your car, just in case people are watching.