Gahanna residents are being urged to follow three pieces of advice: lock vehicles, don't leave valuables inside of cars and follow the adage "if you see something, say something."

That's the word from Gahanna police Chief Jeff Spence and safety director Mark Thomas following an increase in vehicle thefts and thefts from vehicles.

"We have had multiple reports of thefts from vehicles and the theft of motor vehicles in several areas of Gahanna," Spence said.

Seventeen vehicle thefts were recorded in the city between June 11 and Sept. 11, according to reports.

Spence said four reports are related to a single address in the Vista at Rocky Fork Apartments, Vista Drive, but aren't connected to this recent trend.

In two incidents, police have worked to identify suspects, and two reports involved suspects known to the victim, Spence said.

Six of the 17 vehicles reported as stolen have yet to be recovered, he said.

Spence said in almost all cases, vehicle doors were left unlocked.

"In several cases, the keys to the vehicle were left inside," he said. "Other area law enforcement agencies, including our neighbors in Columbus, New Albany, Reynoldsburg and Whitehall are experiencing the same trend."

Spence said a recent arrest of suspects on the part of Columbus, with the individuals believed to be involved in cases in Gahanna, has reduced the number of incidents.

Thefts from vehicles are showing the same trends, including not being isolated to Gahanna and involving many of the same suspects, according to Spence.

Since June 11, Gahanna has had 110 calls for service related to thefts from vehicles, which has resulted in 49 offense reports.

Entry is gained almost entirely through unlocked doors as forced entry rarely is used, Spence said.

"By not forcing entry, the suspects can very quietly move through neighborhoods late at night virtually undetected," he said. "Loose change and any items of value such as GPS devices, laptops, purses and cellphones are the targets for these thieves."

While some suspects are supporting drug habits, Spence said, others, often juveniles or young adults, are not.

In order to deter these crimes and apprehend suspects, Gahanna has deployed officers on bicycles in several neighborhoods.

"This has proven very successful, as our bike officers have made multiple arrests," Spence said. "In July in the Royal Manor subdivision, the same suspect was arrested twice one week apart.

"Our detectives have identified suspects after examining surveillance video at retail locations. Detectives have made arrests and/or filed warrants in cases after these suspects have been identified using stolen credit cards," he said.

Spence said he's encouraging residents to lock their vehicles and not leave keys and other items of value inside.

"Parking vehicles in driveways in well-lighted areas and making sure exterior lights are functional can also deter thieves," he said. "Home-surveillance cameras are very popular and can provide valuable evidence to law enforcement. Even if you are not a victim of crime, review home surveillance footage and contact us should something suspicious be observed."

Lastly, Spence said, if residents see something, they should say something.

Suspicious activity can be reported, especially late at night, by calling 614-342-4240 or, if an emergency, 911.

Thomas echoed Spence on the locking of car doors and not leaving valuables behind.

"I agree with Chief Spence, these thefts are occurring throughout the entire central Ohio area, not just in Gahanna," he said. "Our police department continues to deploy additional resources to include officers on bikes during the overnight hours, when most of these thefts are occurring."

Thomas said outdoor lighting would assist as a deterrent.

"It takes an entire community working together in a partnership to reduce crime," he said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla