An increase in home break-ins and burglaries in Pleasant Township has prompted residents to start a neighborhood watch and township trustees to request an increase in patrol presence in the area.

An increase in home break-ins and burglaries in Pleasant Township has prompted residents to start a neighborhood watch and township trustees to request an increase in patrol presence in the area.

Maj. Alan Mann, who is in charge of operations for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office Patrol Bureau, said the department is aware that burglaries in Pleasant Township have increased during the past two to three years.

Mann attributes the increase to development in the area. "Even with the economic downturn, as people move into the suburbs, it can attract a criminal element to the area," he said. Mann explained that most burglaries occur during the daylight hours, with thieves targeting the homes of working people in populated areas.

"A farmer or someone in a rural area, they know that at a certain time of day, there shouldn't someone at a place across the road. So they question it," he said.

"But the more there is to see, the less that's seen. It's unfortunate."

The department has responded by providing extra patrols in the area. Mann, a resident of Pleasant Township, said he takes different routes from home to work every day. "I get into areas that I know other cars won't use, that are off of the main thoroughfares."

According to Pleasant Township trustees chairman Keith Goldhardt, the primary challenge to patrolling the township is its size. "It's 47 square miles. There's no quick way to cover it because it's so big."

Goldhardt said the trustees are aware of the situation, and particularly of the increase in home break-ins. "I haven't been able to nail down true figures," he said. "There's been some discrepancy in what I'm finding from one report to another report. I wouldn't doubt that there's an increase. The economy is bad; it leads to driving crime up a little bit."

At the April 14 township trustee meeting, trustees agreed to send a letter to the sheriff's office, requesting a meeting to discuss the possibility of stationing a patrol car at the Pleasant Township Fire Department.

"Due to a lack of township funds, we are unable to contract a patrol car to cover the township," the trustees said in the letter. "What we are able to offer is space, in a secure area, for the cruiser and lockers for the patrol officers." By offering this space, the trustees hope to increase cruiser presence in the township by eliminating commuting time.

"If this saved a half hour at the beginning and end of every shift, it could amount to three more hours of coverage per day for this area," the letter said.

Mann acknowledged receiving the letter, and has discussed the request with shift supervisors. He said they were in general agreement with the trustees.

"The first lieutenant had already been wanting to do this. We have to address the issues of where the officers drive from. We don't want someone driving to Pleasant Township from Licking County or New Albany."

Mann on April 28 said no decision has been made on stationing a patrol car in Pleasant Township.

Pleasant Township residents Lou and Jack Luther have responded to the increase in crime by organizing a neighborhood watch.

Lou Luther obtained police reports for 2008 and 2009, and counted 23 burglaries throughout all of 2008. In the first two months of 2009, she counted 20 burglaries in Pleasant Township.

Luther began alerting her neighbors of the increase in home break-ins. "I called more than 20 people that I felt were vulnerable. My husband and I distributed fliers in Oakhurst Knolls, Rolling Hills and Thornhill Farms."

She said the watch is informal in northern Pleasant Township, but that the word is spreading. Luther has been attending trustee meetings and working with trustee Nancy Hunter to alert all residents of the need to be vigilant.

"We don't want to traumatize people; we don't want to scare people, because it's a lovely area here in Pleasant Township," Luther said. "We're used to car break-ins or people breaking into sheds, but when it's your home, it's a little scarier.

"I am trying to get citizens to be more careful in protecting their property. Those that can afford a security system should have one. And don't open your door to strangers," Luther said.

Residents interested in helping cover their neighborhoods can contact the Luthers by e-mailing nhouston@columbus

Cpl. Zach Scott of the sheriff's office has been assisting with the block watch effort.

Mann advised residents to watch for slow-moving vehicles whose drivers might be studying the area.

He also urged residents to make sure that their garage doors are closed at all times.

"It's not being prejudiced or profiling," Mann said. "It's just being aware. We can't be everywhere. We need help from the people."