Saturday, December 31st, 2011
Residents on guard
By William Kincaid
Residents throughout Mercer County are on the watch for suspicious people and activity in the aftermath of an unsolved double homicide near Fort Recovery and recent burglaries and break-ins throughout the area.
"People are on edge," St. Henry Police Chief Bob Garman said.
The unsolved homicides of 70-year-old Robert Grube and his 47-year-old daughter, Colleen Grube, are weighing heavily on psyches, Garman said. But so, too, are recent home burglaries in the smaller villages where such incidents are a rare occurrence.
Mercer County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Gery Thobe said as of early December, deputies investigated 95 burglaries, a significant increase from the 54 incidents in 2010.
For the first time in several years, a home in St. Henry was burglarized, Garman said. Police records dating back to 2005 reveal business burglaries occurred, but not home burglaries, he said.
A burglary of a business also occurred recently, the first since 2009.
Garman said police patrolling has been stepped up. His department includes two full-time and two part-time officers.
"The other guys (officers) are spending their evenings and nights just driving around looking for burglars," St. Henry part-time patrolman Pat Elking said. "So yeah, we have stepped up patrols heavily during the evenings and early morning hours."
Garman said his officers are working with other departments in the county and are changing patrol tactics. He also said portable alarm systems are being utilized at various locations in St. Henry.
Garman said village officials have discussed increasing appropriations next year for additional patrolling. Village administrator Ron Gelhaus was not available for comment on the department's budget.
The amount of calls received by the St. Henry Police Department and Garman's home phone are "way up," Garman said. The calls mainly are about suspicious people or vehicles, which is a good thing because people are looking for things that just don't look right, he said.
"We got people wanting to help," he said. "We have not caught anybody, but the calls are coming in."
Garman stressed that when people think they see something out of the ordinary, they should call law enforcement immediately.
"Give us the call when you see it," he said, adding any bit of information could end up being a puzzle piece of a crime. "We need tips. We need information."
He also advised residents to lock the doors of their cars and homes and keep lights on inside their houses, even when they are not home.
Coldwater Police Chief Randall Waltmire said his department this month investigated a breaking and entering at a business and a residential burglary. Officers also investigated two unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to a business and a residential garage.
Reports of breaking and enterings and burglaries are up just slightly this year, Waltmire said.
But, the police department has received an increase of calls from people concerned about suspicious people and vehicles. Though none of those calls led to any arrests, Waltmire said it's good to know that people are on the alert.
The public is the eyes and ears of the department and should always feel comfortable contacting officers, he said.
Patrolling in the village has increased around 25,000 miles a year the last five years, Waltmire said. Through November of this year, officers have logged 65,269 miles of patrol routes, he said.
Patrolling also has increased in Fort Recovery, according to police chief Jared Laux. He and the other full-time officer in the village are creating a safety checklist for residents and have noticed residents are locking up more and are more cautious of strangers.
Laux said he doesn't see a need for additional budget appropriations for his department next year.
Coldwater part-time investigator Kip Wright, who has been with the department since late November, said law enforcement officials from Auglaize, Darke, Mercer and Van Wert counties recently began sharing intelligence. The last such meeting was held in Coldwater.
"We're finding out that we're not unique," Wright said. "Other counties and villages are having similar problems."