City reports reveal the top 4 crimes in Columbus during the winter months

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Winter Crimes: Theft From Cars
Winter Crimes: Domestic Violence
Winter Crimes: Criminal Damaging
Winter Crimes: Theft
Thursday at 11: Crime in the suburbs
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Think thieves take a break during the winter months? Think again.

After analyzing three years of Columbus city crime reports during the months of December, January and February, CrimeTracker 10 found four crimes that continued to top the list.

During those three months, anywhere between 17,000 and 20,000 crimes took place within the CPD's 20 precincts across the Columbus metropolitan area.

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These four crimes top the list every winter:

  • Theft
  • Car break-ins
  • Criminal Damaging
  • Domestic Violence

THEFT

Theft consistently ranked as the number 1 and 2 crimes that take place every winter (December through February) over the past three years, according to Columbus police reports analyzed by the CrimeTracker 10 team.

On average, there are 2000 reports that include theft in general, theft of mail, prescription medication theft, and felony theft to name a few.

But something else has been driving up thefts in the capital city: porch pirates. Columbus Police Lt. Howard Pettengill says the rise in online shopping is a key factor behind the theft crime trend.

“Crime shot up because of having availability and deliveries,” Lt. Pettengill explains. “It's not something as a police department we can solve.”

They may not be able to solve porch pirates from stealing your packages, CPD is working to slow them down with the help of Ring Neighbors. Homeowners can upload videos of suspected thieves by posting them onto the free app from the smart doorbell company. While Ring pitches it as “the new neighborhood watch”, Columbus police say it’s a tool police and undercover detectives can use to stop porch pirates in their tracks.

“They’re monitoring this, and they can go right to the scene and catch this person,” says Lt. Pettengill. “They have a photo of the person who did it and arrest them.”

CRIMINAL DAMAGING

While criminal damaging may not seem like a crime that affects many people, it is a crime of nuisance and a violation when someone purposely destroys your personal property. And it seems the stress of the holidays can bring out the worst in people.

“Thefts out of automobiles, people breaking things or stealing things or not treating each other with the respect that they should,” says Officer Chris Riley who works in the Community Response Bureau of the Columbus Division of Police.

During the winter months of December, January and February, the CrimeTracker 10 team found an average 1,500 criminal damaging reports filed each year of 2016-2019. People reported holiday decorations being broken, vandals destroying public property such as churches and parks, and car windows getting broken out.

“It’s not surprising because of the stress of the holidays and winter months, people being cooped up for long periods of time,” added Officer Riley.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

When Sue Villilo with LSS Choices learned that domestic violence ranked in the top 4 winter crimes as analyzed by CrimeTracker 10, she wasn’t surprised.

“I know the volume of calls that we get every single day,” says Villilo, Assistant Vice President of Community-Based Services for Lutheran Social Services. “I know from those volumes of calls how many runs we’re getting.”Villilo says with the holiday stress coupled with people cooped up in the house more often during colder months and the financial pressure following the holidays, those are all factors that can affect a victim and how they go about their daily life.

The impact can be seen in the number of domestic violence incidents reported to Columbus Police. More than 2000 over a 3 month time span last winter. The calls also include violation of protection orders... even strangulation.“The minute the holidays are over, we see a big rebound,” Villilo says.

“We see more people coming in early January once they've gotten through that holiday season… trying to get through it, often for themselves, families, children and stick it out.”No matter what time of year, CHOICES wants people to know they are here 24 hours - 7 days a week. The hotline to call is 614-224-4663.

THEFT FROM MOTOR VEHICLES

Car break-ins happen in every city in America. Central Ohio is not immune. Some local police chiefs have called it an “epidemic.”

“Criminals are out there working in tandem with each other," says Columbus Police Officer Chris Riley who works in the Community Response Bureau. “They’re out there surveying parking lots and keeping an eye out and that’s what they do.”

CrimeTracker 10 found upwards of 2,000 theft from auto reports for the City of Columbus during the winter months of December, January and February for the past three years. And when it comes to shopping habits, even criminals have their routines.

“Criminals do walk around and do surveillance - look inside the windows and try door handles,” Officer Riley explains.

Car break-ins go far beyond Columbus city borders. Criminals will often target neighborhoods and move on to the next as long as they know people will continue to leave valuables in plain sight.

“Windows… they keep you dry,” Officer Riley says. “They don’t keep people from breaking into your car.”