Police emphasize teamwork and communication in response to burglaries in western Washtenaw County
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 www.washtenawsheriff.org.
Erica Hobbs is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.