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Posted on Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 7:10 a.m.

Police emphasize teamwork and communication in response to burglaries in western Washtenaw County

By Erica Hobbs

More than 100 people gathered in Chelsea Thursday evening to discuss a rise in burglaries in western Washtenaw County in the last week.

The theme of the meeting? Teamwork and communication.

Officials from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police and the Chelsea Police Department hosted the meeting at the old Chelsea High School to educate the public on how to protect their property from burglaries.

Burglaries on the western side of the county - which has many rural townships - have more than doubled this year compared to last, police said. Exact figures on the number of break-ins weren't available Thursday night.

“We must do this in partnership, and we must be proactive,” Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton said to the crowd.

The meeting was held following a series of at least eight break-ins in western Washtenaw County last week. Police are currently trying to identify two men believed to be involved in the cases.

A similar meeting was held in Ann Arbor last week in response to a series of burglaries on the city's west side since May.

At Thursday's meeting, officials said it's important - now more than ever - for neighbors to look out for each other to help law enforcement keep the county safe.

State Police Det. Sgt. Dale Smith said the number of burglaries in the area for this time of year had more than doubled since last year, while state cutbacks have decreased the amount of officers on the streets.

“There’s not enough of us out there as there was 10 years ago,” he said.

Officials encouraged residents to be on the lookout for any suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods and not to hesitate to call 911, even for cases that aren't necessarily emergencies.

Sheriff's Sgt. Lisa King gave residents tips on how to protect themselves from being the next victim.

She said burglars look for easy targets, so it's important to keep doors and windows securely locked, including putting a metal rod or broomstick on the runners of sliding doors to make them harder to open.

King also said it's important to have lights on the outside of the house at night and keep shrubs trimmed to keep the yard visible. She said residents should ask neighbors to collect the mail when on vacation.

“Make it look like it’s normal activity,” she said.

Officials also encouraged writing down the serial numbers of items such as computers, cameras, TVs and other valuables in case of theft, and engraving the owner’s driver’s license number on the back of the objects.

For valuables such as jewelry, police said to take a picture for future reference.

Officials said law enforcement can scan items in pawn shops, where thieves frequently sell their stolen goods, to see if the items match anything stolen. But without the numbers, the officers said it was unlikely the stolen item would be retrieved.

Many of those attending the meeting said they were impressed with the cooperation among the law enforcement agencies and found the information helpful.

Elissa Ray of Lima Township said she lives in a rural area, and the meeting brought the crimes closer to home. She said the meeting motivated her to become more proactive in crime prevention in her own neighborhood.

"That really helps to say I've got to do something and put time in," she said. "It really makes you think, 'I've got to make it a priority.'"

For more information or to sign-up to receive email crime alerts, visit

Erica Hobbs is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 11:55 a.m.

A friends house was broken into last year. She lives alone and for a long time after the incident lived in fear. Now the robberies are starting again. This past saturday, a man was in our neighborhood trying to sell cleaning supplies, air fresheners, & vacuum cleaners. This is the start of more break-ins. We all need to be on the lookout. This is ridiculous! Its out of control. As someone said in another post its due to the economy. I feel that its because of drugs, these people do not work and need to get money to get their next fix. As much as people dont want to believe that drugs is problem in our community, It is. It is a major problem, and the doctors just keep prescribing these medications. It doesnt make any sense to me!


Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 10:26 p.m.

My home was broken into several years ago, the Pittsfield Township police did...nothing. They took my report and said good luck.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 3:26 p.m.

Well it's sad to say that crime is on the up swing, it has a lot to do with the state of the economy! Im believe that law enforcement officials are doing the best they can to combat the problem with what we give them to work with. we Have to be more receptive to our community's and whats going on in and around them. "High Five's" to the Police. At least they are working at a solution to the problem!.


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 12:03 a.m.

oh, crime is not up at all...slash the force a bit more please, we need more public art and green land no one will use


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 2:28 p.m.

No one took fingerprints when my house was broken into last month.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 11:17 a.m.

I was very happy to see representatives from MSP, Washtenaw Sheriff as well as City of Chelsea law enforment personnel. They stressed that they do not argue about jurisdiction like they used to. It was a good meeting and I'm glad I attended. I spoke with the Chief afterwards and he indicated that they had a suspect in custody that he believes is reponsible for the break-in's in the City this week. Hope he is correct.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 9:42 a.m.

The representatives of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department, State Police, and Chelsea Police Department provided a first rate presentation last night. One seemingly obvious point was that while they work to enforce the law, it is up to individuals to do their part, by securing their homes, keeping an eye out for their neighbors, watching for suspicious activity, and most important, reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate police agency. If nothing else, write down license numbers and descriptions of suspicious vehicles or persons, in order to have them available if it later turns out that something did actually happen. As for fingerprints, I am sure that the capabilities of all police agencies continue to improve, as budgets permit. At last night's meeting, several police officers made reference to fingerprints that have been obtained from recent break-ins, and in fact, asked citizens to refrain from touching anything, including broken glass, door jambs, etc., in order to avoid compromising latent prints.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 8:45 a.m.

Our house in Lodi Township was broken into several years ago in the middle of the day. Nothing stolen was ever recovered. One area I could see that the sheriff's office investigators can improve is to try and get several fingerprints of items that the thieves had to have touched. In our case, they didn't do that - possibly because they assume that the thieves all wear gloves? Or they don't have the funding to investigate to that level of detail? To me, it seems likely that someone who is perpetrating these types of crimes probably in many cases has a criminal record. And at least if you know who did it, it's going to make it easier to find them than if you don't. But, I do applaud the law enforcement community for getting people involved.