Theft, vandalism, car break-ins non-stop since Halloween

COLUMBIA, 12/16/12 (Beat Byte) --
A wave of small but jarring crimes has been rattling residents of the Old Southwest, most recently attempted car break-ins on S. Glenwood Avenue around 2 a.m. Saturday.  Neighbors notified police and "several people (3-4)," were involved, resident Tim McGarity explained on the Old Southwest neighborhood listserv.

Crime isn't common in this area of tree-lined streets, historic homes, and college professors west of Providence and south of Broadway.  But theft of a wicker chest used as a porch coffee table kicked off the spree at the corner of Broadway and Glenwood on Halloween night. "I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but it [the chest] was pretty big so it was probably planned," resident Renee Jiji explained on the listserv.

Next day, thieves swiped the Halloween decorations from a home on Stewart Road. "Makes us very cranky!" said resident Donna Phelps.

Back on Glenwood, a window in an unlocked car "was smashed. Nothing was taken," explained resident Peter Vallentyne. "We’ve reported it to the police."
While it may have been tempting to write off the crimes as Halloween pranks, crooks have continued making mischief. "We experienced a major wave of vandalism last night in our part of the Old SW," wrote Stewart Rd. resident Kristin Bowen about a week later, on Nov. 5.  "Four cars here (including one of ours) had windows smashed last night. And word is that about two blocks north of here, yet more cars were vandalized."  A police officer taking a report "mentioned 15 cars total" hit by vandals that night, Bowen explained.
"Our window was smashed as well. Husband was on call and did not notice it until this morning," added Melanie Baskurt, who lives on Glenwood.
The crimes turned to burglary about 10 days later. "I'm writing with the bad news that our home was broken into yesterday," wrote Rollins Rd. resident Erika Waller Nov. 15. Thieves apparently broke in mid-morning, when Waller was taking her children to school. "They accessed the house by using a pair of BBQ grill grips to open a small window," she explained. "They rifled through drawers, closets, and jewelry boxes."
Waller's husband Brian contacted police, "who came right over and were very helpful with taking fingerprints and a detailed list of stolen items," she explained. "They said that although this type of thing is not common in our neighborhood, it is the typical type of robbery for this time of year."

Word of the crime spree has prompted calls for better neighborhood security. "I think it's essential that we look out for one another, be alert to those who appear unfamiliar in the neighborhood," said Historic Old Southwest Neighborhood Association president Hank Ottinger. "Might a neighborhood meeting with the police be called for?"

He also called for stepped up crime prevention efforts. "Years ago, there was a neighborhood watch program, but I'm not sure if that's still functional," Ottinger said.