CARBONDALE — Police Chief Gene Schilling is the first to admit that Carbondale is not exactly a hotbed of vicious and serious crime.
But in a letter to the public issued recently, he encouraged people to lock up their vehicles and their homes, and remain alert and attentive to one’s surroundings, as a way of cutting down on opportunistic crimes against person and property.
For example, Schilling said, more than 30 cars have been broken into this year in Carbondale, most of them because they were not locked and presented a clear chance for a burglar to open the vehicle, reach in and grab what he or she could.
Many of the car break-ins, he said, happened in incidents linked by time and location.
“We had two that were fairly large numbers,” Schilling said, mentioning one series of break-ins on Wheel Circle.
“Sometimes they took things, and sometimes they didn’t,” he explained.
Among the things stolen, he said, were iPhones, iPads, loose change and “whatever was readily available.”
Even the chief’s own squad car was hit by burglars, he said.
One evening last summer, when his official car was parked outside his house, someone smashed the rear window and took a “lockout kit” and the electrical controller for the winch on the front of the vehicle.
Of the 30 or so vehicle burglaries, Schilling said, police made arrests in about a half a dozen cases.
Often, he added, “It was basically one person that broke into six or seven cars.”
Schilling’s report also mentioned break-ins at nine homes and four businesses, which also were “mostly unlocked with they were burglarized.”
One home break-in was “fairly recent,” the chief continued, and was not a case of an unlocked door.
It was on Crystal Road, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the burglars entered by kicking in the back door, stealing a computer and other items, Schilling recounted.
A man was spotted in the area, but without a detailed description police have little to go on at this point.
“A lot of time, it just goes in spurts,” Schilling said of the crimes, noting that violent crimes involving weapons seem to have become more frequent than in the past, but not significantly.
Stolen cars also are slightly more prevalent than in years past, the chief said, but most also are a case of opportunity.
“People leave their keys in their car, and they shouldn’t,” he remarked.
One respite from the crime rate, Schilling said, happened in the wake of multiple drug arrests by the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) in December 2012.
“Our property crimes went to nothing for several months,” the chief recalled.
In his letter to the public, the chief outlined several precautions that local residents can take to avoid being targeted by burglars, such as informing neighbors when leaving for any period of time (and getting neighbors to do the same if they leave town); form alliances with trusted neighbors to keep watch on each others’ homes in general; keep doors and windows locked; keep bicycles locked; document and save serial numbers on items of value; marking items that have no serial numbers; and reporting unusual or suspicious activities to police.
“It’s still a great place to live,” Schilling said of Carbondale. “There’s a good quality of life. But things are changing.”
The town is no longer the kind of place where personal security can be taken for granted, Schilling said.
“Not everyone has your best interests in mind,” he concluded. “It’s more like, help us, help yourself.”