October 28, 2021

Police warn: Lock it up

City residents urged to secure property amid thefts

Photo illustration by Todd R. McAdam

Cortland police are advising people in the city after a spate of thefts from vehicles earlier this week. The seven thefts follow a dozen other break-ins in April.

Cortland City police suspect the same group of people are behind 19 burglaries since last month, but they can’t keep the suspects locked up, so they suggest you lock up your stuff, instead.

“We’re dealing with the same handful of people over and over again,” said Lt. Michael Strangeway. “The same people we arrested for burglary one day are released due to the new laws involving bail reform and are out committing crimes again.”

On top of that, he said, courts are scheduling times to see people until June because the courts have shut down some aspects of what they do because of the coronavirus.

The people involved in the rash of break-ins have been charged in enough cases that they are some of the first suspects when new crimes occur.

“A lot of these things are fueled by drug addiction,” he said, noting people are looking for easy property to sell or trade for drugs.

Seven larcenies from vehicles were reported over the weekend in the city, police said. That’s after police said 12 homes and businesses were burglarized in April, mostly student housing left mostly vacant and businesses closed because of the coronavirus.

These vehicle thefts occurred mostly overnight last weekend across the city, police said.

All of the items that were reported stolen came from vehicles that had been left unlocked.

No vehicles were entered by force or damaged.

“You have to lock your cars and keep your homes locked,” Strangeway said. “All have been crimes of easy opportunity created by cars being left unlocked.”

Other police agencies are beginning to take up the call, even though the rash of thefts appears isolated to the city.

“Occasionally you’ll see one that gets a window broke, but that’s rare,” said Sheriff Mark Helms, who noted that car and home break-ins are about the same as this time last year.

Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman also said his reported break-ins are about the same as last year.

Strangeway said business owners and landlords with vacant property should regularly check their properties because with a good chunk of businesses closed “there’s another easy target for people,” he said.

“The sooner people find a break-in, the better chance we have of solving the crime and locating the property,” Strangeway said.