University City

University City community invited to meeting on crime

Area police will host a quarterly community meeting this month that aims to decrease victimization in University City through education, police said.

The first “Crime Reporting and Solutions” meeting of 2014 will be Feb. 20. Capt. Todd Garrett, commander of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s University City Division, said they hope the recent name change will attract more people.

For years, the quarterly meetings were called leadership forums, Garrett said, “and sometimes the word ‘leadership’ shuts people down.”

“When we say ‘community,’ we want all people to be leaders and all folks to be engaged,” he said. “These meetings have been built on informing and educating, providing solutions and giving an idea of where we need to go in the future.”

A number of officers will be available at the meeting to speak with residents, Garrett said, and the crime prevention team will also share “updated tools that may help.”

Larceny from automobiles continues to be one of the area’s most frequent crimes trends, Garrett said. In the February newsletter sent out by the division’s Response Area 2, that type of theft was up almost 57 percent from last year, with 36 larcenies from vehicles reported this January, compared to 23 in January 2013.

“Our biggest problem with larceny from auto (is) people don’t remove valuables from their vehicle. We could greatly, greatly reduce that crime of opportunity by individuals doing that one thing,” Garrett said.

Video of past break-ins shows that this type of theft takes only seconds. Through the education the meeting will provide, residents can learn to better protect themselves, Garrett said.

“Even if you’re only going into Starbucks, or the post office, for two or three minutes. … Don’t assume that just because you’re in your driveway in front of (your residence), no one will come take (your) items,” he said. “Don’t take anything for granted.”

Another crime trend area police have seen is an increase in commercial burglaries. Crime statistics from Response Area 2 show an increase, from one reported case in January 2013 to five commercial burglaries last month. Larceny from building was also up, from one reported case in January 2013 to four last month.

Garrett said there’s been a drastic increase of “resurrected” buildings in University City developments “that have been dormant. And we’re excited for the new homes and the new residents. But with that comes construction theft.”

Until a home is purchased, it’s considered a commercial property, Garrett said. And as is true for any University City resident, Garrett said, he asked anyone who sees suspicious behavior – especially in these sparsely populated developments – to call 911.

“That’s been another challenge,” he said, noting many people don’t think what they’re seeing is an emergency. “But if it could be illegal activity, we want you to call us immediately. That’s critical information.”

Garrett said residents should get the best possible description “of that strange car, or strange person walking through your neighborhood” and call it in.

Other topics the meetings will cover include the social media tool Nextdoor, a geographically exclusive, neighborhood-specific version of Facebook. The meetings will run about one hour. He also plans to begin putting recordings of future meetings on YouTube for those who can’t attend.

“We really want it to be a positive thing, where folks feel like they can come and share,” he said. “It all starts with us working as a team; what can we do to reduce victimization? Anytime we meet with the community, we want to educate and walk away with a prevention strategy that will develop the community into a better place to live.”