RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Cars line the streets in the Church Hill neighborhood as they do most days. The items inside of them though are a hot target for thieves. Most of the residents we spoke with are doing what they can to stop it from happening.
"I lock the doors and I don't leave anything in my car," said Church Hill resident, Amanda Eads. "I take my purse in. I take my little iPod player...I take that in."
"I take everything important out of my car and put it inside the house," said Church Hill resident Trevor Clemon.
Richmond Police Lieutenant James Laino sees the police reports all the time. Thieves target unlocked cars or simply break windows in order to steal what's visible inside. Crimes like these might seem small, but they are among the toughest to solve.
"Most of those occur late evening, early morning hours where we have fewer witnesses," Laino said.
Fewer witnesses means those crooks are often times still roaming the streets and you could be their next target. Police rely on people who live here to help them catch these criminals. The problem is that most residents aren't reporting property crimes when they happen.
"If it's one crime then it may not be an issue in that neighborhood, that block or that specific area, but if we are having two or three or four or five different cars broken into during that same time frame then we want to be made aware of that so we can put extra patrols in that area to solve that problem," Laino said.
Police have a process to determine what areas to patrol. After seeing an increase in police reports for a specific area, they increase officer presence there. But if neighborhood residents don't report property crimes, then the police don't know which areas to add patrols. Prosecutors use the reports to go after people that have committed multiple offenses.
"This is a defendant who has not learned who has been before the court that has no respect for either the courts orders that he remain out of trouble and keep the peace and be of good behavior and has no respect for other people's property," said prosecutor Colette McEachin. "It's like that old saying you can't win if you don't play and the only way you can get your crime solved is if you report it."
At the upcoming National Night Out, Richmond officers who patrol the Church Hill neighborhood hope to meet residents like Trevor and Amanda. They want to encourage them to report even the simplest of property crimes to police immediately so they know what areas need more police presence.