Neighborhood Watch Helps Dearborn Police Prevent Crime, Make Arrests
A 2011 rise in home break-ins has Dearborn police imploring residents to keep watch on their neighborhoods.
Friday, Dec. 2, was a lucky day for Dearborn residents Bob and Barbara Biess.
Barbara had just left for an awards luncheon; Bob was on a conference call for work in his upstairs office. Their basset hound, Jake, was moping around the main floor of the house. All was relatively quiet on their block of Mohawk Street.
Then Bob heard a bang come from the back of the house.
“It sounded like a tree branch hitting the ground,” he recalls. “I ran downstairs and didn’t know what was going on.”
But it wasn’t a tree branch–it was three men breaking into their home.
Bob heard someone say, “We gotta go!”
Within the next hour, Dearborn police had three Detroit men in custody on charges of first-degree home invasion.
Bob and Barbara were left with a broken back door, fingerprint dust all over their house, and a jolting reminder why they should always lock the door when they leave.
The Biess family had nothing stolen from their home–but many other Dearborn families were not so lucky.
A Huge Job for Police
At a recent meeting between Dearborn police and City Council, Chief of Police Ronald Haddad said that crime is indeed up several percentage points in 2011 in Dearborn–including cases of breaking and entering.
The rise is in “part A” crimes–encompassing auto theft, larceny from vehicles, robbery, assault and battery, breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property, narcotic offenses and shoplifting.
“I’m not making excuses, but it’s part and parcel to the economy,” Haddad told City Council of the stats.
”Law enforcement have never seen the issues we’re seeing right now."
But while Dearborn's property crimes continue to prove a challenging issue, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 3.7 percent drop in property crimes in the first six months of 2011, according the their Uniform Crime Report.
In Dearborn, the biggest percentage jump for part A crimes was in Beat 5, which runs from Michigan Avenue north to Ford Road; and from Gulley Road east to Military. There, part A crimes increased 19.7 percent since 2010, including 68 home invasions this year.
Haddad admits that it’s a daunting task for his police force.
“This is not the same crime situation that Dearborn had five years ago,” he said. “Law enforcement and public safety have never seen the issues we’re seeing right now. That’s why it’s so important to see why we continue to develop our police department.”
And though it's not the only crime issue afflicting Dearborn, continued reports of thefts from homes continue to rattle the trust of residents. Stolen items range from jars full of change to jewelry to electronics and more. In some cases, nothing is found missing. In others, thousands of dollars in goods and cash are gone.
The biggest issue facing Dearborn, Haddad added, are serial criminals, who hit multiple cars or homes in one night.
On Thanksgiving weekend, nine homes were robbed while people were out having dinner with their loved ones, or away for the holiday. The majority of those were homes in Beat 5.
On Monday, Dec. 19, three break-ins were reported in the Cherry Hill Estates neighborhood, also located in Beat 5. Police believe the crimes were connected.
“Never in history has Dearborn had this many serial offenders,” Haddad said.
Neighborhood Policing Helps
The good news is that policies implemented by the Dearborn Police Department, including neighborhood crime watch initiatives and special crimes task forces, have meant that while crime is relatively high, so are arrests.
“We’ve had very good success rate closing robberies, shootings and B&Es,” Haddad said.
In the case of the Biess family, who have lived in their house on Mohawk for 16 years, it was thanks to a fortunate phone call that suspects in their home break-in were arrested so quickly.
Just an hour or so before the crime, a Republic Waste worker called Dearborn police to report a suspicious vehicle in the area. As a result, police were already patrolling the area when Bob Biess made his 911 call.
Written testimony from their mailman, who saw the men running down the street while parked and eating lunch in his truck, helped police find and arrest the suspects.
“We were just really, really lucky,” Barbara said. “Who knows what I could have come home to?”
Barbara added that for them, it really brought home the impact an aware community can have on combating crime–even more than the alarm system they had installed in November. And instead of letting fear consume them and looking for a new city to live in, they’re thinking of more ways the neighbors can help each other out.
“Neighbors keep an eye out on each other’s houses while they’re gone,” said Barbara. “And it’s clear to me that people working in the neighborhood know to have their eyes and ears open.”
“I think we’re in a time when people are really desperate,” Bob added. “The feeling I keep pushing out of my head is that this isn’t the neighborhood it used to be. But it is.”