Lock your car doors.
But first, remove the keys and valuables.
Then lock the doors. Lock them every night.
Lock them, because a stranger might check.
Thieves roaming Johnston’s neighborhoods have been swiping personal property, from several vehicles, to a high-end pair of sunglasses and a wheelchair.
Johnston Police want residents to be vigilant as they increase nighttime patrols.
There are a few simple tips that can stop you from becoming a victim.
Four vehicles have been stolen in Johnston over the past 10 days. And many other cars have been ransacked and valuables stolen from within, according to Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza.
“As most of you are aware, we are experiencing an increase in vehicles being rummaged through across the town,” Razza wrote in a statement to his fellow residents. “This phenomenon is not unique to our community, and is occurring throughout the state and New England.”
Johnston Police are on the hunt for the individual or individuals responsible.
“I want to assure all Johnston residents that your police department and its dedicated officers are doing everything possible to thwart and apprehend the individuals responsible,” Razza wrote. “We have made arrests and obtained evidence with the aspirations of making additional apprehensions, however, these investigations take time.”
Razza asks Johnston residents to be vigilant, and report suspicious activity. Residents can also protect themselves by completing just a few simple tasks.
“While we have increased our directed patrols in our residential areas, and are committed to protecting your valuables and ensuring your quality of life, we cannot be everywhere at once,” Razza wrote. “At this time, we are requesting that you take the appropriate steps to protect your property. This includes removing valuables and car keys from vehicles when parked, locking car doors, securing and locking sheds, garages and homes, and leaving exterior lights on at night.”
Residents can report “anything suspicious in nature” by calling 401-231-8100.
“We are a resilient community and your police department is committed to serving you, the residents of Johnston,” Razza wrote. “Thank you for your patience, understanding and cooperation during this time.”
Johnston resident Kristin Badway has been checking surveillance video outside her home and spotted a man enter her yard several times.
“Looked at our Ring again, especially after we found out another neighbor had both cars broken into,” she posted on Facebook recently, with a short video.
The video shows a suspect wearing a hood and mask, enter the yard, try her car door handles, and then ride off on a bike with blue LED lights on the wheels.
“I work hard and I feel violated and unsafe,” she said on Tuesday.
Another Johnston resident, Wendy Forbis Buono, watched someone enter her yard.
“If you have the drive to be up that early, out in the cold to steal from hard working people, why not just get a job?” She asked. “Seems a lot easier to me than committing a crime.”
Thieves have even swiped a wheelchair from one Johnston family.
“Whoever took my wheelchair out of my driveway, please return it,” Mary Bennett’s daughter Amy posted on Facebook earlier this week. “No questions asked. And return the folding tables also. Police have been contacted. Why would you take someone's wheelchair? Would you want someone to take your Mom's wheelchair? I don't think so … Beware everyone.”
Razza said that property has been swiped from cars, but four vehicles have also been stolen in the past 10 days. In each case, it seems key fobs have been left in the vehicle’s center console, making the thefts too easy for would-be thieves.
“Residents need to remove their keys from their vehicles and lock their car doors,” Razza said Tuesday.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” Razza explained in an interview on Monday. “We recognize it’s a quality of life issue. We’re not taking it lightly. We have units, marked and unmarked, out patrolling.”
People who spot potential criminals often “forget the most crucial part,” according to Razza.
“I appreciate people reaching out to me, but they have to realize, when something’s occurring they need to call police,” Razza said. “Sometimes they forget that step.”
Residents can email crime tips to email@example.com, and call police to report a crime, at 401-231-8100.
Locking car doors, however, can stop most thieves in their tracks.
“We have not had one occurrence where a car window was smashed,” Razza said. “They’ll rummage through it, and if there’s something of value, they’ll take it. Like I said, we recognize this is a quality of life issue. We are on it. It is getting addressed.”
Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena echoed Razza’s instructions.
“It is alarming,” he said Monday. “I remind people to lock their doors. Unfortunately this is a society where we have to keep our doors locked. And if you see someone walking around or riding a bike after midnight, call the Johnston Police. I just ask people to be very vigilant and watch out for their neighbors. And keep your doors locked! He tries the door; if the door’s open, he hits the lottery.”
Police are looking for more surveillance footage of property intruders. Razza and his detectives have been able to pull images of suspects from several residents’ cameras, but need more clear images to build a case.
“You get any type of video, call police,” Polisena said. “My detectives are working overtime to find out who this person is. We don’t want this coming into our community.
On Monday, Nov. 29, Razza provided a brief update on the recent thefts.
"Since we last spoke, we had one vehicle recovered and no new thefts or larcenies from vehicles to report," Razza said.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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