Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Sounds Alarm About Car Burglaries

Addicts roam streets, check car doors

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

Southwest Side residents who leave their cars, SUVs and pickup trucks unlocked are leaving themselves open to burglary, a prominent civilian crime fighter said earlier this week.

GRNW VP Mike Doherty (right) and Secretary Michele Doherty (center)
The note of caution was sounded by Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Vice President Mike Doherty at the GRNW’s monthly meeting, held Monday night at St. Jane de Chantal Parish’s Ward Hall. About 50 people were in attendance.

“There has been a rash of burglaries in the area recently, and often it involves guys walking up and down the streets, trying car door handles,” Doherty said. “Sometimes they just go through the car and steal loose change or anything they can grab quickly.

“But other times, they’ll grab your garage-door remote control and open your garage,” he continued. “Next thing you know, they’re in your garage while you’re sleeping or not home. They go through your garage quickly, load things onto a truck and they’re out of there before you know it.”

Doherty said it is not yet clear if the recent crimes were committed by hardened burglars or others simply looking for cash to feed an addiction.

The GRNW’s message to everyone is “lock your car doors and keep your [garage door] remote control in the house,” he added.

Vehicle burglaries committed by “door-handle jigglers” have increased in recent years—fueled by the nation’s ongoing heroin epidemic, a retired police detective said later Monday night.

“There have been garage burglaries as long as there have been garages,” said Homer Glen resident Jerry Kowal. “There always will be. Those are the guys who break into your garage or steal your remote and use it to open the garage. They work fast, know what they want and have a way to dump the stolen stuff quickly, for cash.

“But what’s new—what we’ve been seeing a lot in the suburbs, and now in the city—are these kids: teenagers and guys and gals in their early 20s who get hooked on heroin, which is very easy to do, and then turn to petty crime to fuel their habit,” he continued.

Since heroin is highly addictive and inexpensive—“you can get a hit for less than [what it costs to buy] a six-pack of beer,” Kowal said—people addicted to the substance “are desperate and will steal anything they can, quickly, to pull together a few bucks.”

He said that people he tells that to are often incredulous when they learn that victims of car burglaries sometimes lose nothing more than the spare change in their cupholder.

“But really, that’s how cheap heroin has become,” he said. “You can pay for it with change, which is why these kids walk up and down the streets, jiggling car-door handles. They’re not pros, so they won’t break into your car—they may not even know how—but they will definitely enter you vehicle if you leave your doors unlocked. So don’t.”

The remarks were similar in some ways to what Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Ronald Pontecore has said repeatedly in public meetings across the district--that burglary is a crime of opportunity, and the more that motorists leave their doors unlocked, the more that burglars and auto thieves will seize the opportunity.

In fact, Pontecore said that the majority of vehicle thefts he has seen involved motorists leaving their doors unlocked--and sometimes the ignition running--while they ducked into a 7-Eleven or gas station. 

The next public meeting of the GRNW is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18 at Banquets at the Mayor’s Mansion, 5445 S. Harlem. The neighborhood watch serves the central and western section of Garfield Ridge (everything west of Central Avenue).


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