As Temps Rise, Thefts Increase

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Friday, May 31, 2019, 7:36 am
Alice Dreger

This week’s report from the East Lansing Police Department shows an uptick in thefts from cars and homes, plus a “taser display.” We spoke with ELPD’s Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez to learn the backstory of these incidents.

Gonzalez says it’s common for ELPD to see an increase in theft at this time of year. He notes that, with the warmer weather, people are more likely to leave car windows down and garage doors open, and that attracts opportunistic thieves.

“We will see statistical bumps where, for lack of a better term, we see a ‘crew’ of thieves operating for a week or so until they get caught,” Gonzalez told ELi this week.

Such “crews” will often work a particular neighborhood. In response, when staffing is available, the midnight shift of ELPD will send out an officer in an unmarked car in a neighborhood that is seeing a lot of theft. Often that leads to capture of suspects.

“The biggest thing I can encourage,” says Gonzalez, “is for people not to shy away from calling us. If you notice a neighbor’s garage door is open and that doesn’t seem right, or something doesn’t look right with a house or a car, call us. We hear people say ‘I didn’t want to bother you,’ but that is what we are here for. We can come do a walk-around and make sure everything is OK.”

A bicycle laying out in a public traffic area without being locked up may be a sign of a potential thief checking out a property. So, says Gonzalez, if an unlocked bicycle looks suspicious, call it in.

“If something feels out of the ordinary, then call us,” says Gonzalez. “Go with your intuition.”

You can always call the nonemergency number of the ELPD if something feels worth reporting but not an emergency. That number is (517) 351-4220. Choose the option for speaking to the police desk.

Asked about why this week’s report shows “taser display/use of force” — something we don’t usually see — Gonzalez explained that that does not mean a taser was used, but rather than an officer took it out of a holster and warned an individual he or she might use it if the person did not comply with instructions. The department logs any such “display” or discharge of a weapon in order to track use of force.

In this case, Gonzalez says, a man had been arrested for trespassing violations and he was combative. He kicked the police vehicle doors hard enough to bend one of the doors, and then was also aggressive in the jail. An officer made the decision to warn the man that if he did not stop lashing out, he would be “tased.” Gonzalez says the weapon was not used, just unholstered.

The use of a weapon by an officer in ELPD is fairly uncommon.

Gonzalez says that if we see the discharge of a firearm by an officer on a weekly report, the reason is usually because a deer has been hit by a car and needs to be put down to end its suffering.

A few reminders:

  • You can see the weekly police reports by clicking here.
  • You can view a map of crime in East Lansing by clicking here.
  • You can sign up to get emails or texts from the Nixle emergency alert service here.
  • In an emergency, call 911.
  • Consider putting the nonemergency number of ELPD in your phone contacts: (517) 351-4220.
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