This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WEST CHESTER — A string of home burglaries over the last two months in West Chester led borough police and Mayor Carolyn Comitta to conduct a special meeting for residents on Thursday night.
“The No. 1 thing everyone wants in our community is to be safe,” Comitta said at the meeting. “There is no question that the Borough of West Chester is a very safe place to live. Regardless if we triple our police force, we could never prevent every crime from happening. That’s unfortunate. We can be well educated, we can work together, we can be aware of how to avoid to be a victim of a crime of opportunity.”
The idea of the meeting was to inform the public and to give them accurate information since, after some instances of a “whisper-down-the-lane,” facts got distorted.
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Over the stretch of about seven weeks, from March 7 to May 7, seven burglaries occurred in the borough between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. while the residents inside the homes were asleep.
There was also an attempted burglary as well and a vehicle theft.
The burglaries were in homes which had doors and windows locked and a forced entry was used to get in, said Detective Sgt. Louis DeShullo.
Due to the timing of the crimes, none of the victims have seen the suspect or suspects, but several did hear them. There have been no confrontations between the victims and the suspects.
According to West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn, vehicles were stolen in four of the seven burglaries, but all have been recovered. Three of the vehicles were found along the border of Philadelphia and Upper Darby and the fourth was found at the Christiana Mall in Delaware.
The burglaries have not occurred in the same spots of the borough either, as four were in the southwest section, two in the northwest and one in the northeast.
“In most instances we’ve seen, is that we have somebody obviously working the neighborhoods and working down alleyways, peering or looking through windows during that time,” Bohn said. “If they see a purse, a wallet or keys sitting in a visible area, they’re popping and going through the window and grabbing those items. They are only interested in the cash and the keys and, in four instances, have taken the car.”
Police are asking residents to help prevent future break-ins by following some home protection tips:
- Residents are urged to lock all doors and windows.
- Residents with large television or computer boxes should break them down completely and place in recycling or a trash container, not in plain sight along the curb.
- Since most break-ins happen on the ground floor through doors and windows, residents are asked to use shades, drapes and other window treatments to keep potentially tempting household items out of view.
- Burglars typically want to slip in and out unseen, so residents are asked to use timers hooked up to indoor lights and televisions to switch on during the day and evening to give the impression of someone being home.
- Residents are encouraged to speak with their neighbors and help keep watch over each other’s homes and to share contact information.
- Residents are encouraged to trim back overgrown vegetation so that windows, porches and doors are visible to neighbors because bushes, shrubs and trees offer a burglar a place to hide and camouflage signs of a break-in.
- Residents are encouraged to install motion-sensing security lights, which can startle intruders and provide a visual alert to homeowners and neighbors.
Police are checking all leads and, according to Bohn, they are comfortable it’s the same person or group of people.
“We do have some leads that we are working,” DeShullo said. “I don’t believe this is a first-time offender.”
Anyone with information about any or all of the burglaries, or anyone who sees any suspicious activities is asked to call the West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700.
DeShullo is urging residents to remove themselves from danger — if something doesn’t feel right — and call police immediately, even if it ends up being nothing.