The number of break and enters in Wellington County has been “climbing like crazy” according to OPP Inspector Scott Smith.
He said in an interview that break and enters in Perth and Grey Counties have been climbing and it seems to him that professionals are now moving into Wellington in their search for easy targets.
Smith said thieves are targeting urban and rural areas. In the countryside, they take advantage of farmers’ propensity to leave keys in trucks and tractors.
He said often thieves will steal a farmer’s truck, load goods into it from the unlocked driving shed and then take off.
“They know that in eight out of 10 cases the key is in the ignition,” he said.
In urban areas, they will often target a home by boldly pulling into a driveway of what appears to be an empty house. If someone is inside, they ask directions for the home of someone fictitious, and take off. If there is no one there, they break in and clean it out.
That tactic and variations of it, like dropping off someone to walk up the driveway to scout a farmhouse, is used often.
Smith said Neighbourhood Watch programs are one way for people to protect each other, but where that program is not in place, people can still be neighbourly and look out for each other. Alert neighbours can thwart such thieves.
Smith added anyone who sees an unfamiliar car in someone’s driveway should take down the licence plate, colour, make and model. If possible they should also take down a description of the occupants.
And, he said, if something looks suspicious, people should call the police immediately. He said officers will always come to investigate.
“If you know your neighbour is away and there is a strange vehicle in the driveway, call us,” he said just prior to county council on Nov. 24.
“We would rather get a call and catch them in the act.” He noted it is easier for police to catch crooks on the spot than to have to seek them after they have left the area.
Smith also said people are a very good defence for their own goods.
“People need to look after themselves,” he said. “You have the ability to prevent a crime.”
Smith said most break and enter artists get most of their goods from out buildings, although they will break into homes if it is easy and they have lots of time.
He said far too many garden sheds and, in rural areas, driving sheds do not get locked and it is simple for thieves to haul away such things as lawn mowers or even tractors. Poorly secured houses are an easy target for thieves.
Smith said simply making it difficult for a thief is a good practice because, “The longer it takes them to break in, the more chance they will be seen by neighbours. I really want to prevent crime; we’ve got to make it more difficult for them to achieve their goal.”
Smith is aware locks will not stop thieves, but he said they might slow them down to a point where they might look elsewhere for an easier theft.
“They want it easy-in, easy-out,” he said. “Make it more difficult for them.”
Smith noted it is not just in the northern part of Wellington where thieves are crossing municipal boundaries to ply their trade.
He said Wellington OPP is also constantly working with Guelph, Halton and Caledon police on the same issues in the south and eastern part of the county.