In recent weeks, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office has responded to reports of thefts from vehicles on a nearly nightly basis.
Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith said that is an unusual amount of reports for his office to receive. He said he didn’t know exactly how many reports there have been, “but it’s been a lot.”
Sheriff’s office reports show 15 incidents involving thefts from vehicles since the beginning of November, and some of those reports describe thefts from several vehicles.
“When it gets to that level, when we have a lot — multiple car break-ins for a consistent period of time — we need to get that stopped,” Smith said.
He said his office has dedicated two investigators to the thefts, whereas most cases of vehicle theft aren’t assigned any investigators. He also said he has involved the Athens County Major Crimes Unit in the investigation.
Smith said at least two incidents appear to be related.
“We do have some leads,” he said.
Smith said he has been telling residents to lock their cars and avoid leaving valuables in them.
“We’ve had situations where … there’s a pocketbook in a vehicle and (thieves) just walk by, and look at that and that’s kind of tantalizing,” he said.
He said in some cases, the owners left their vehicles unlocked. In others, the vehicles’ windows had been smashed.
He said he doesn’t know why people are committing the crimes.
“We leave no possibility off the table,” he said. “You just don’t know. We don’t know until we catch them, and then we’ll have a better idea.”
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said he isn’t aware of any increase of theft from vehicles in his jurisdiction
“Nothing’s crossed my desk that says we’ve had a rash of vehicle break-ins,” he said.
He said thefts from vehicles are fairly common, though. Earlier this semester, an incident that began with APD officers responding to a report of theft from vehicles ended in a car chase in which officers shot a suspect.
Pyle said the thefts from vehicles may spread to the city of Athens.
“If the county’s experiencing them, and they don’t catch them, we’ll no doubt be experiencing them,” he said.
Ohio University Police Lt. Tim Ryan said his department received its most recent report of theft from a motor vehicle on Oct. 31, which doesn’t indicate a series of vehicle break-ins are occurring on campus.
“I’m not alarmed by that particular statistic,” he said in an email.