City News

Arrival of Lowe's may have led crooks to neighborhood

For years, Olmsted Park sat in near anonymity, with the mostly crime-free section of Dilworth blocked by a series of South Boulevard buildings.

Now, with the area more visible because of the Lowe's Home Improvement project, residents and police say the newfound exposure may have alerted potential criminals to a quaint neighborhood with a mix of houses and apartments that they never knew existed.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police statistics, crime is up only a few incidents in recent months compared with the same time last year. CMPD Sgt. Rich Stahnke said the department is aware of the recent crimes, especially after four home break-ins during a one-week span in early July, but declined to put the blame squarely on Lowe's.

Stats show that home burglaries are up 18 percent across the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area for the first quarter of 2008 compared with last year. “People might have been made aware for the first time, like ‘Hey, look at what's back there,'” Stahnke said. “I think it's just indicative of the same issues that Dilworth as a whole is facing.”

CMPD doesn't have separate stats for Olmsted, but does for a slightly larger area known as south Dilworth, which includes Olmsted.

From May 1 to July 14, that area experienced eight residential burglaries, after only one during the same time in 2007. Overall incidents in that 21/2-month time frame are up from 39 in 2007 to 46 this year.

CMPD's Providence Division, which patrols the area, has started a burglary unit to counter the issue. As for Olmsted, Lowe's is scheduled to open later this summer or early fall, with a mix of 70-plus housing units on two sides of the building to open in spring 2009.

Nearby residents worry about criminals descending on the area after construction workers leave at night.

Phil Reitano, president of the Olmsted Homeowners Association, hopes that Lowe's completion and opening will offer the neighborhood better security. Earlier this year, Reitano's back window was pried open, but he thinks an alarm scared off the intruder.