Police have issued a crime alert in Richmond's West End, where thieves are targeting sheds and garages to steal lawn care equipment. There's been a huge spike in the last few weeks.
Since the end of June, people in the West End have reported 31 break-ins to sheds and detached garages. That averages out to about four every week for the last seven weeks.
If you think those statistics are staggering, NBC12 checked the numbers for the same time period last year. Back then, the Richmond Police Department saw only seven burglaries. That's an increase of more than 300 percent.
RPD started receiving reports on June 26th. The burglaries stretch from the Downtown Expressway all the way to the Henrico County line.
"It's scary," Laura Oliver, whose neighbor was hit this week, told us. "She went yesterday to get the lawnmower and her neighbor's was in there but her's wasn't. They took the better of the two!"
The common theme in most of the break-ins is that the buildings were unlocked or the keys were left in the padlocks.
Sgt. Charles Hayes says many of the thefts occur between Sunday and Wednesday nights.
"Typically it's the end of the weekend," he explained. "People have done their lawn care. They're probably tired. They want to get their stuff put up and they don't go back maybe until midweek to use it again and that's when they notice that the lawnmowers, weed eaters and leaf blowers have been stolen."
Those stolen goods are expensive. We're told some pieces are worth upwards of $700.
Even though police have increased foot, bike and cruiser patrols, residents are wondering what's next.
"I'm scared not for my life but scared what this will snowball into," Oliver added.
If you're at home and you see anything suspicious, police ask that you call 911 immediately so they can send an officer to check it out. If you know anything about the recent spike, call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.
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