By taking basic precautions, Bexley residents can protect themselves from becoming victims of crime -- that was the message city officials worked to impart during a July 17 community meeting at Montrose Elementary School.
"You've just got to change a few habits, batten down the hatches, because if not, somebody, sometime is going to try your door," Police Chief Larry Rinehart said. "Every community that's in an urban setting has the exact same issues."
Joining Rinehart in the discussion were Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler, Sgt. Dawn Overly-Sheterom, Det. Bernard Hanna and Citizens Police Advisory Commission representative Lee Nathans. About 20 residents attended the meeting.
Overly-Sheterom said that for reasons not yet been determined, burglaries and break-ins have increased 6 percent in Bexley. There have been 68 incidents so far this year, compared with a total of 64 in 2013.
Many of the crimes are committed by the same perpetrators, Hanna said.
"There's three or four groups (of criminals) we believe are responsible for this," he said.
Rinehart said investigations have enabled the police to apprehend many of the suspects.
"Our arrest rates have increased," he said. "We are putting bad guys in jail. Unfortunately, it's petty crime. We can't keep them in jail very long."
Kessler said crime tends to increase in warmer weather, when residents are on vacation, working in the yard and participating in other activities that distract them from protecting property.
"We have a relatively stable number when it comes to major categories of crime," Kessler said.
The police presented examples of some recent break-ins and how they could have been prevented. Safety strategies discussed included the most effective locks, such as deadbolts and window locks; burglar alarms; exterior lighting; and registering bicycles with the city and locking them securely, even when they are in one's own garage.
Dogs can also deter criminals from breaking in, but should not be relied on as the sole line of defense, Rinehart said.
"If your dogs bark aggressively, that can be a deterrent, but you should still lock the deadbolt," he said.
When away from home, especially for extended periods of time, residents should make sure to leave lights on and not let mail or newspapers pile up, Rinehart said.
"Most of it is common sense," he said.
Police also encouraged residents not to open their doors to solicitors, unless the solicitors display city-issued permits stamped with the Bexley city seal. Solicitors must pass a background check and pay a $25 fee to the city of Bexley to obtain permits.
Residents should report aggressive solicitors, including those with permits, to the police, Rinehart said.
"If they're overbearing, we'll pull the permit," he said.
Police also offered tips on preventing car break-ins. Rinehart said recent incidents in which cars were broken into at the Bexley Community Pool were the result of visitors leaving valuables in plain view.
The session also covered the benefits of neighborhood block watch groups and how to start them. Overly-Sheterom said there are seven active block watches in the city.
Nathans, who started a block watch in his South Remington Road neighborhood, said such groups help residents look out for one another and keep their areas safe.
"Combined with (police) patrols, the active awareness of community members are the best strategies to make sure your home and your family are protected," he said.
For more information about crime prevention, visit bexley.org/police-department or call 614-559-4444.