Locking car doors and having lights on at night, are the two biggest crime deterrents.
“There have been 257 car break-ins, year-to-date,” Ormond Beach crime prevention officer Jay Brennan said.
Brennan, his partner, John Dovine, acting Captain Lisa Rosenthal, and Ormond Beach Chief of Police Robert “Jesse” Godfrey, were at The Trails clubhouse on Thursday, June 30, to talk to residents of The Trails, and surrounding neighborhoods, about the increase in crime, and what the residents can do.
“The doors were left unlocked on about 90% of the vehicles entered, in the city of Ormond Beach,” Godfrey said. “This year alone we have already had 18 firearms stolen out of unlocked vehicles.”
Some of the 22 people who attended the meeting, like Ann Marie Thompson, had been victims themselves.
“My car was left open by mistake,” Thompson said. “I came in late and my hands were full, and I forgot to lock the door.”
A neighbor, who happened to be on his balcony at 2 a.m., saw several young men around the car, and saw the interior light go on when they opened the car door. He called out to them, and they ran away. Three weeks earlier another car's window had been broken in the same lot.
While some may think leaving the doors unlocked will prevent their cars from being damaged, Brennan said locking vehicles, and not leaving items of interest in plain view, is the difference between a “soft” target and a “hard” target.
Garage door openers are one of the items that should not be left in plain view.
“Just get in the habit of taking your garage door opener in with you,” Brennan said. “Some people keep the title to their car in the glove box. Take it out.”
Brennan held up a rectangular card that looked like a ticket, but it wasn't. Officers, who notice opportunities for theft, will leave these cards on windshields or at the front door, to let the owner know what they observed.
“If you are taking groceries out of your car and leave the trunk open, and an officer drives by and sees it, we are going to stop and knock on your door,” Brennan said. “We are proactive. We are not waiting for things to happen – we want to prevent them – but we need all of you to help us with that.”
Nextdoor.com, a community media site, is another good tool for neighbors to share things they see, that they don't feel is right, on their streets. Brennan reminded the group that while it is good they alert their neighbors, they should also be calling the police.
“The next day we come, after 10 cars have been broken into, and we knock on doors,” Brennan said. “Then people tell us they saw something odd, and they didn't want to bother us -- you aren't bothering us. Call us, we will come and check it out.”
Steven Massone bought his home in The Trails two months ago, in Thompson's neighborhood.
“Last week at 2 a.m., we heard the helicopter and it illuminated the backyard,” Massone said. “A neighbor saw someone trying to break into a car.”
Irene Kraby said the criminal activity has made her nervous.
"I'm nervous because we have our patio door locked, and several nights I've been hearing rattling,” Kraby said. “I am keeping my back lights on.”
The question was asked whether the police would like residents to turn their yard lights on or off when the helicopter is searching.
“On,” Godfrey said without hesitation. “If you have dark areas in your yard they can hide.”
Godfrey said a lot of the cars being stolen in the Ormond Beach area are winding up in Daytona Beach.
“Ormond Beach is considered one of the more well off communities, so if you are going to go “shopping” why not go where the stuff is nice? Port Orange and South Daytona have the same thing.”
Many were surprised to see the panel of Ormond Beach officers, and especially the new chief, at the neighborhood discussion.
“Normally the chief doesn't come to these,” Godfrey said. “But I wanted to because I am the new chief, and I wanted to let everybody know that I support this; and I want to get out there and meet everybody.”