While most Grandview Heights residents sleep, police officers working third shift are on patrol.

It's also a time that thieves often are active as well.

A program initiated July 2 by the third-shift officers aims to reduce thefts during the those hours by notifying residents who may be setting up themselves to be victims.

Officers have begun mailing written notices to residents when they see garage doors open or find valuables easily visible in vehicles.

"A majority of the incidents we handle on the third shift involve thefts," said officer Michael Estep, who is on duty during the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift.

"Many of those incidents are 'crimes of opportunities' where a criminal finds a garage door left open, a car that's been left unlocked or sees something has been left in the car overnight."

The notices mailed to residents are "friendly reminders," Estep said.

"We'll let them know we observed that they left valuables in their car or found their garage door was open, and we'll also give them tips on how to help prevent themselves from being a victim of thefts and burglaries," he said. "And those tips are simply to remember to close your garage, lock your car up and remove any valuables from the vehicle."

If an object isn't removed, it should be hidden under a seat or covered, Estep said, becaue thieves are not as likely to break into a vehicle unless they see something enticing.

"The object itself doesn't have to be valuable," he said. "A book bag or backpack is inviting because they'll think there might be a laptop or something else of value inside. Perhaps all that gets taken is a couple of books or some loose change from the center console, but no one wants their car broken into."

According to Estep, it takes a thief only 10 or 15 seconds to break into a vehicle and grab an item.

Three to five officers are on patrol each night and each officer spends part of the shift on foot patrol, he said.

"Sometimes we're able to catch somebody in the act of committing a theft, but there are thousands of cars and garages in the Grandview area and we can't be everywhere at once," Estep said. "We need people to be proactive. If we can reduce the number of thefts that occur, we'll be spending less time at the station writing reports and more time out on the street."

Officers won't be checking car doors to see if they're locked, he said.

When the officers observe a potential "crime of opportunity," they will confirm the owner's name and address using the department's computer-aided dispatching system and later print and mail a theft-prevention notice, Estep said.

Only third-shift officers are sending notices, but the program may expand to other shifts in the future, he said.

The program is "a creative way to help our residents be proactive to work with our officers to reduce these 'crimes of opportunity,' " Mayor Ray DeGraw said.

By remembering to lock their car doors and close their garages, residents can "give a big boost" to police, he said.

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