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Theft from vehicles has the highest priority in the city center

Theft from vehicles has the highest priority in the city center

People who live and work – and park – downtown are targeted by thieves who break car windows in lots and garages and force changes to some properties. Police blame a group of about two dozen teenagers and adults for the thefts.

Residents of the new luxury apartment complex on 4th and Race Street, located above a 3CDC-operated garage on Race Street, received an email this week informing them of an increase in break-ins and stolen valuables. Residents of Encore, on Sycamore Street, said they received a similar email.

“It’s frustrating and scary, a little scary,” said Jen Heitkemper. “It’s like your personal space.”

Heitkemper said she had noticed an increase in neighbors saying cars had been broken into. She’s come down and found her glove compartment open and tossed about for the past few months, she said.

Evan Millward

A Jeep passenger window is shattered in Seventh and Sycamore’s garage.

“I’ll keep my doors unlocked sometimes so they don’t try to break the windows to try to get in because I don’t have anything of value here and if I do it could be a few cents or something,” she said. “I’d rather have them sniff through than break a window.”

3CDC manages the garage where Heitkemper parks, and also sent an email this week. According to a copy obtained by WCPO, it says there has been an increase in thefts, burglaries and vandalism in downtown garages. It also notes that 3CDC is hiring more personnel to be on the scene and hiring police personnel. You can read part of it below.

3CDC email parking garages

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Part of an email to 3CDC parking garage users, discussing recent spikes in crime. Provided to WCPO 9 News by a 4th and Race resident.

In a statement to WCPO on Wednesday, 3CDC property and facility manager Reid Van Pelt said:

“Over the past year, we have seen an increase in car break-ins, vandalism and break-ins in all downtown parking facilities, including those owned and operated by 3CDC. 3CDC has worked diligently to address these challenges at its parking facilities by hiring additional staff, private security guards and off-duty police officers. The organization is strongly focused on implementing solutions that help mitigate these issues.”

The Cincinnati Police Department is blaming a group of about 25 youth and adults — some of whom have been arrested and re-insulted — for the increase in burglaries and thefts in the downtown central business district.

Months ago, we reported that car thefts had increased significantly by 2022 for 30 of the city’s 52 neighborhoods.

“We take it very seriously,” said Capt. Doug Wiesman, Commander of the Central Business Sector for CPD. “We’ve identified people that we know do this, we’ve arrested them several times this year alone. It’s just not the kind of crime that people spend time in prison for.”

Wiesman said car thefts have always been the most common crime downtown, but there has been a spike in the past year. He has recently shifted resources, including a detective, to focus on it.

“We do DNA collection, fingerprinting, facial recognition when we capture people on video and take a good picture of their faces,” he said. “So we really pay a lot of attention to these crimes.”

During the recent Taste of Cincinnati weekend in the city, Wiesman said he gave patrol officers a folder listing about nine known thieves and told officers to keep an eye on them during a busy weekend with garages and lots full.

However, he added that officers are often recovering expensive, valuable items left in plain sight in a car. While walking through two downtown parking lots, Wiesman was soon able to point out a designer bag, golf clubs and purchases left out in the cars.

Captain Doug Wiesman parking lot

Evan Millward

Cincinnati Police Department Captain Doug Wiesman checks cars in a downtown parking lot after a spike in break-ins and thefts.

“So, if we can get the word that when you park in an urban environment or really anywhere, if you can just limit how much stuff you have visible in your compartment, you could really reduce the crime rate for this particular crime,” said.

The city — and 3CDC in its email to monthly parking ticket holders — also said teens on e-scooters were a concern. According to the email, there could be more “geo-fencing” to prevent scooters from entering parking garages. Police explained to city leaders that teens used scooters to quickly get in and out of garages while committing crimes, which is one of the reasons cited for the recent 6 p.m. curfew on e-scooters.

For downtown residents now accustomed to seeing broken windows, even groups of teens committing the crimes in daylight, the promised changes are necessary and may just be the beginning.

“Just being here has made me feel better,” Heitkemper said.

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