‘Lock it or lose it’

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, June 22, 2017

The theme for this year’s National Night Out is “Lock It or Lose It,” encouraging local residents to lock their car doors to avoid becoming an easy target for thieves.

There’s good reason for that being this year’s theme. After rising numbers of such incidents in recent years, it appears the increased focus on awareness and accountability is starting to pay off.

“We have to have community involvement, and we have to have proactivity,” Maj. Gerald Brandsasse said during Wednesday’s City Council work session, where he gave an update on theft numbers and some recent arrests.

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“Please lock your vehicle doors,” Brandsasse continued. Doing so is the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of theft of cash, electronics or other valuables from a vehicle.

After the numbers of such incidents rose from 361 in 2015 to 450 in 2016, Brandsasse predicted a steep drop to roughly 287 incidents in 2017.

That’s due in part to several arrests that have been made recently thanks to the hard work of police officers and the involvement of alert citizens.

Brandsasse noted that the majority of the individuals recently charged in such crimes in Suffolk were juveniles who did not live in Suffolk.

One of those incidents occurred May 22 in North Suffolk. Officers saw two subjects pulling door handles in the 3900 block of Prices Fork Boulevard. They fled the area in a vehicle, crashed into a boat trailer — causing about $7,000 worth of damage — and were seen going about 90 miles per hour on Respass Beach Road. Officers pursued the suspects into Portsmouth, where the suspects crashed again. They attempted to flee on foot, but both were caught. Both were juveniles who live in Portsmouth.

On May 24, an alert citizen helped officers catch five juveniles from Norfolk who were seen tampering with motor vehicles late at night.

After the citizen called dispatchers at 2:29 a.m. to report the crime, arriving officers saw a dark-colored Acura fleeing the area at a high rate of speed. Officer set up a perimeter around the neighborhood — there’s only one way in and one way out — and canvassed for the vehicle and suspects. The vehicle was found on Kilby Shores Drive, and a police dog tracked down the suspects.

On May 31, Virginia State Police stopped a speeding vehicle on Interstate 64. The vehicle had been stolen from Suffolk but not yet reported. Two male juveniles and one adult male, all residents of Newport News, were detained. One of the juveniles confessed to entering the vehicle, finding the key and stealing it, as well as tampering with several other vehicles.

On June 7, a citizen from the 400 block of Broad Street called dispatch just after midnight to report two males tampering with vehicles. Officers checked the area with negative results, but later a citizen reported two suspicious people at the Circle K convenience store nearby on West Washington Street.

Two 20-year-olds from Suffolk, Jacob Goff of Virginia Avenue and Robert Allen of Glen Haven Drive, were charged.

Despite the recent arrests, Brandsasse urged citizens to stay vigilant and protect themselves against these types of crimes by following these tips:

  • Lock vehicle doors and keep sunroofs and windows closed when away from your vehicle.
  • Take all electronics and valuables with you when you leave your vehicle.
  • Park in a well-lit area if possible.
  • If stowing valuables in your vehicle, make sure you stow them out of sight before you park and leave your vehicle.
  • Hide any electronic accessories, such as power cords and window mounts, that can notify a thief you have electronics in the vehicle.
  • Avoid keeping spare keys in your vehicle.
  • Report suspicious activity to police.