Thefts from vehicles spiking

GREENFIELD — Local police are reminding residents to lock their cars at night and take valuables inside after a string of vehicle break-ins recently across the county.

Leaders with the Greenfield Police Department and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department said their officers have seen an increase in thefts from cars parked at homes and local businesses. They are working together to see if there is a connection but in the meantime are warning residents to be vigilant.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Rasche, head of the department’s investigations unit, said the county handled six calls for car break-ins last week after going all winter without an incident. Most were clustered in the northeastern part of the county.

During the past six months, Greenfield police officers have been called out for a car break-in at least once a week, Detective Lt. Randy Ratliff said.

In the city, thieves have targeted pickups filled with power tools, he said.

Each of the trucks was locked, Ratliff said. The thieves manipulated the locks to enter the vehicle, swiping thousands of dollars worth of tools, he said.

Some of the thefts occurred in parking lots of Greenfield hotels, where construction workers or contractors were staying while working in the city, officials said.

Hancock County 911 dispatch records show Greenfield’s police officers have been patrolling the parking lots of those establishments in an effort to curb the thefts or catch those involved.

John Dodrill, owner of the Super 8 in Greenfield, said this week, a visitor to his hotel called police after a saw was stolen from his truck.

Now, Dodrill is warning other customers to be sure to secure property in their cars before calling it a night. He’s thankful for the extra patrols as it gives peace of mind to his customers, he said.

But all Hancock County resident are at risk, especially those who aren’t putting precautions in place to keep their valuables safe, police said.

Rasche said he believes warmer temperatures might be to blame: Criminals will walk through neighborhoods pulling on the doors of cars until they find one that is unlocked, and then they’ll steal whatever valuables they find inside, he said.

Stolen items included laptop computers, other electronic devices, purses, wallets and even spare change, Rasche said.

Police are reminding residents to lock their cars at night and not to leave valuables, particularly firearms, in vehicles. If valuables must be left in the car, the item should be kept in a trunk where it can’t be seen from outside, police say.

When possible, park cars in garages or barns; those who can’t should park in well-lit areas at night, police say.

Anyone with information about the break-ins can contact the Greenfield Police Department 317-477-4410 and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department at 317-477-1199.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.