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Downtown residents, workers find their vehicles targeted by thieves

Shattered window in downtown garage
Posted at 6:35 AM, Jun 09, 2022

CINCINNATI — People who live and work — and park — downtown find themselves the targeted by thieves who are breaking car windows in lots and garages, forcing changes at a number of properties. Police blame a group of about two dozen teens and adults for the thefts.

Residents at the new luxury apartment building at 4th and Race streets, situated above a 3CDC-managed garage on Race Street, got an email this week letting them know of an uptick in break-ins and stolen valuables. Residents at Encore, on Sycamore Street, said they received a similar email.

"It's frustrating and scary, kinda scary," Jen Heitkemper said. "It's like your personal space."

Heitkemper said she'd noticed an increase in neighbors saying they'd had cars broken into. She's come downstairs to find her glove compartment open and tossed around a couple of times the past couple months, she said.

Jeep shattered window
A Jeep's passenger window is shattered in the garage at Seventh and Sycamore.

"I will sometimes keep my doors unlocked so they don't try to break the windows to try and get in because I don't have anything valuable in here and if I do it might be like a few pennies or something," she said. "I'd rather them rummage through than break a window."

3CDC manages the garage Heitkemper parks in, and also sent an email this week. According to a copy obtained by WCPO, it says there has been an increase in thefts, break-ins and vandalism inside garages downtown. It also notes that 3CDC is hiring more staff to be on the premises and hiring police detail. You can read part of it below.

3CDC email parking garages
Part of an email to 3CDC parking garage users, addressing recent spikes in crime. Provided to WCPO 9 News by a 4th and Race resident.

In a statement to WCPO on Wednesday, 3CDC property and facility manager Reid Van Pelt said:

“Over the past year, we have seen an increase in car break-ins, vandalism and trespassing across all parking facilities downtown, including 3CDC-owned and -managed facilities. 3CDC has been working diligently to address these challenges at its parking facilities by hiring additional staff, private security guards and off-duty police details. The organization is strongly focused on implementing solutions that will help mitigate these issues.”

Cincinnati police blames a group of about 25 juveniles and adults — some of whom have been arrested and re-offended — for the uptick in break-ins and thefts in downtown's central business district.

We reported months ago that thefts from autos had increased significantly in 2022 for 30 of the city's 52 neighborhoods.

"We take it very seriously," said Capt. Doug Wiesman, commander of the Central Business Sector for CPD. "We've got people identified that we know are doing this, we've arrested them several times this year alone. It's just not the kind of crime that people spend time in jail for."

Wiesman said thefts from autos is always the most prolific crime in downtown, but there has been a spike in the past year. He's shifted resources, including a detective, to focus on it recently.

"We're doing DNA collection, fingerprints, facial recognition when we catch people on video and get a good shot of their face," he said. "So we really pay close attention to these crimes."

During the city's recent Taste of Cincinnati weekend, Wiesman said he gave patrol officers a flier with about nine known thieves and told officers to keep eyes out for them during a busy weekend with garages and lots full.

He added, though, that officers are often recovering expensive, valuable items which were left in plain view inside a car. On a walk through two downtown parking lots, Wiesman was quickly able to point out a designer bag, golf clubs and shopping purchases left out in the open inside vehicles.

Capt. Doug Wiesman parking lot
Capt. Doug Wiesman, of the Cincinnati Police Department, checks cars in a parking lot downtown after a spike in break ins and thefts.

"So, if we can get the word out that when you park in an urban environment or really anywhere, if you can just limit how much stuff you have visible in your compartment area, you could really reduce crime for this particular crime," Wiesman said.

The city — and 3CDC in its email to monthly parking passholders — also said teens on e-scooters were a concern. According to the email, more "geo-fencing" could be coming to block scooters from entering parking garages. Police explained to city leaders that teens were using scooters to quickly enter and exit garages while committing crimes, which is one of the reasons cited for the recent 6 p.m. curfew on e-scooters.

For downtown residents now used to seeing smashed windows, even groups of teens committing the crimes in daylight, the promised changes are necessary and may just need to be the start.

"Just having a presence here, that has made me feel better," said Heitkemper.

Cincinnati Police: 30 Cincinnati neighborhoods see significant increase in thefts from vehicles
No charges filed against teens 'associated' with car theft ring
Cincinnati Police give out pink slips to help stop auto break-ins