FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - A spike in burglaries in one Fort Wayne neighborhood has police and homeowners taking action. But, NewsChannel 15 discovered, so far this year, burglaries are also up across the city.
NewsChannel 15 looked at data from the Fort Wayne police department by quadrant for the last five years. For the most part, the number of burglaries is the highest it's been since 2008. Comparing last year to this year, from January to August, the number of burglaries went up in every quadrant except southeast.
What police say is even more concerning is that the number of burglaries where people are home at the time is also up.
"Alarming in that if there's a confrontation we don't know what's going to happen," Michael Joyner, spokesman for the Fort Wayne Police Department, said.
Joyner did say if someone is home during a break-in, they should go to a designated "safe room."
"A closet works well. Ideally it's a place you can lock from the inside. Keep a flashlight and cell phone there. Call 911 from there. Tell them where you are and where you think the person is. Then stay there and stay quiet. It's a priority call so we'll be coming red lights and sirens," he said.
This graph charts all the burglaries reported each year from 2008 to 2012:
While burglaries are up overall so far this year, a recent spike in one Fort Wayne neighborhood has police and homeowners taking notice. From September 1 to September 18, there were 30 break-ins in the Southwood Park neighborhood. About half happened on a weekend and 22 of the 30 were on the police department's "C" shift, which is from the hours of 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
"I lock up everything and I'm thinking about getting security alarms," Mayra Aguilar, said.
The mom of three was out for a morning walk Wednesday. She said she feels safe in her neighborhood during the day.
"The problem is at night. You just have to watch out for each other," Aguilar said.
Erika Stuller has lived in her home in Southwood Park for 12 years.
"It makes me a little nervous, but you just have to stay vigilant," Stuller said. "You've got to be thinking of all the little things you maybe take for granted. If you've always left your door unlocked and been fine, that's unfortunately not something you can afford to do."
The burglaries also make her want to take a stand.
"It makes me want to protect my house. I'm not about to let it go because somebody wants to steal my TV or computer or quick cash out of my purse. Which, by the way, I never carry cash," Stuller said.
Joyner attributes this recent rash of burglaries to the cooler temperatures. People leave windows open when they go to bed and the thieves are slashing the screens and breaking in.
"They're looking for items they can liquidate quickly like electronics and purses. They'll dump the contents out but they never take any debit or credit cards. Only cash," Joyner said.
To help the homeowners become unattractive targets, Joyner gave several safety tips.
* Don't leave windows open when you go to bed, especially on the first floor.
* Leave outside lights on
* Remove things that would be a natural ladder for a would-be thief. For example, trash cans can be moved to climb into a window.
* Leave pets in areas of the house at night where they can alert you if an intruder comes in.
* Know your neighbors and their habits so you can recognize a strange vehicle or activity.
"Burglary is a crime of passion. It comes down to educating the homeowner and the renter as to how best to protect themselves. If everybody came together to do that, I guarantee crime wouldn't have the opportunity to take place," Joyner said.
He added that alarm systems and alarm signs in the front yard are also a deterrent.
For renters, there's an extra safety precaution too. Make sure the landlord changed the locks after the last tenant.
"It's quite possible there could be several copies of that [old] lock in the form of keys in the neighborhood that could be utilized," Joyner said.
On Monday, September 30 there will be a meeting with police where anyone can come and learn how to make their home less attractive to a would-be burglar. It starts at 7 p.m. at the Shawnee Branch Library meeting room, 5600 Noll Avenue. Shawnee is located next to Bishop Luers High School.
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