Burglary statistics are up in township
Police have no leads in 60 of the burglaries reported through June.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Tracy Lesicko said that even though it was nearly midnight on a Tuesday, she didn't think twice when she first heard the noises coming from the garage of her family's home on Kirk Road. She had come outside to move her car, and she assumed the person in the garage was her older brother David.
"I didn't think at first it was someone stealing out of our garage," said Tracy, 17.
Then the burglar stepped out of the garage, carrying one of the Lesickos' power tools in a box. Tracy said the man wasn't wearing a shirt and that he was smoking a cigarette.
"I asked him: 'Who are you?'" she said.
Chased the burglar
Tracy yelled for her father, who chased the burglar to Darbyshire Drive, where another man was sitting in the driver's seat of a waiting car. The burglar got in the passenger seat, and the car drove away without its lights on.
David, 23, said the family and the police searched the area unsuccessfully for the burglar until 3 a.m. The burglary, which occurred July 13, remains under investigation.
"Just the nerve of him," said Tracy's mother, Joyce, who was watching television while the burglar was in her garage. She noted that the lights were on in the house, and that the burglar would have been able to see the family watching television through a window.
"You don't expect someone to walk right in," David said. Joyce added: "He could've done something to my daughter."
The Lesicko family is one of several burglary victims in Austintown so far this year. Police statistics show that 96 burglaries were reported in the township through June, or about one burglary every two days. That's 23 more than were reported over the same time period last year.
In comparison, 104 burglaries were reported in Boardman through June.
Lt. Mark Durkin, Austintown's acting police chief, said he thinks the number of burglaries is a result of the area's continuing economic problems. He said that when some people can't find jobs, "they're going to resort to other methods to obtain money."
Durkin described some of the burglaries as "opportunity-type thefts" committed when a burglar happens to drive by a home and notice that a door is open. He also said that many burglaries are committed by those who are addicted to drugs.
"If they're drug-dependent, they really don't care" about the possibility of being arrested for burglary, Durkin said.
The burglaries also aren't limited to one section of the township. They're being committed throughout the community, as burglars have stolen from homes in the township's newer neighborhoods as well as its older areas.
Durkin noted that in some past cases, police have arrested one or two burglars who have been responsible for dozens of burglaries in the township.
"In the course of two or three months, a person can do 30 or 40 burglaries," he said.
Police made arrests in five of the 96 burglaries through June, while arrests were pending or made by other police departments in six more cases. A few of the cases were closed because the victims didn't want police to pursue the investigation or because the Mahoning County prosecutor's office decided not to file charges against a suspect.
Seventy-five of the burglaries remain under investigation, including the burglary at the Lesicko home.
Police have no leads in 60 of those investigations.
Durkin said unless police catch a burglar in the act or have a good description of a suspect from a witness, it can be difficult to solve burglaries.
Burglars "prey on areas where they don't expect to be seen" said Lt. Bob Schaeffer, head of detectives.
Durkin added that police typically don't have fingerprint evidence to use in a burglary investigation, as it is difficult to find fingerprints in good enough condition to be compared against those in police files. He also said that if a burglar has not been arrested in the past, police won't have his or her fingerprints on record.
In addition, Durkin said most juvenile offenders aren't fingerprinted when they're arrested, so police can't compare the fingerprints of teen-age burglary suspects files with those in their files.
'Not like on television'
"It's not like on television, on CSI," Durkin said, citing the popular hourlong television show which features investigators using high-tech equipment to solve crimes. "It's just not as easy."
Durkin said that to protect themselves against burglaries, residents should consider installing motion-activated lights outside their homes. Residents also should consider installing double-key deadbolt locks, which can't be opened from the inside without a key on their doors, Durkin said.
He noted that a deadbolt lock also serves to discourage burglars, as they know the locks delay their efforts to break into a home.
"The average criminal, if he can't get inside in a minute, will move to the next house," Durkin said.
The Lesicko family said that they've become more cautious as a result of the burglary at their home. David said that when he comes home, he checks the surrounding area for people he doesn't know.
Joyce noted that a few days after the burglary, she went door-to-door in her neighborhood and warned residents to be careful.
She said she told her neighbors "to look out for themselves, to protect themselves."