It was not uncommon a decade ago for residents of small New England communities to leave their front doors unlocked when they weren’t home or leave their cars unlocked in their driveway or parked at the front curb overnight. Unfortunately, according to Brookfield police, that era has come to an end.
Over the last six to 10 years, the Brookfield community has “experienced a change,” Officer Michael Zezza said.
“We’ve seen a rise in larcenies, especially out of motor vehicles,” he explained. However, “These are not hardened criminals, these are our kids.”
From burglaries — theft of property from a private home or vehicle — to all forms of larceny from shoplifting to , the profile is of a younger generation that is a “less educated in hardened crime.”
A decade ago, “Our larcenies were smash-and-grabs. Doing their own surveillance and casing the neighborhood,” Zezza said. What police are seeing now is, “I need cash, now.”
The message: secure your valuables.
“The majority of calls we get, when we ask, ‘Did you lock your doors?’ the response is, ‘But this is Brookfield.’ Those days are over,” Zezza said. “We haven’t graduated to stabbings and shootings and home invasions, but it’s a new day.”
Over recent years, the level of crime has not fluctuated dramatically (see chart below), however the larcenies occurring in town of late are largely of unlocked cars and unlocked homes, where thieves move quickly and take whatever valuables they can find and easily sell.
“The only time I’ve seen a window broken is when no one else could possibly see it,” Zezza said. “If your car’s locked, they move on. If your house is locked, they move on.”
Thieves are looking for “easily pawn-able things” that they can grab quickly, such as jewelry, electronics (tablets, laptops, smart phones) and power tools, he added. “Nobody is carrying a television anymore — it’s too much work.”
Brookfield police are offering home consultations to help deter crime in neighborhoods and are asking the public to help by being vigilant and contacting the police whenever necessary.
“The number is 9-1-1,” Zezza said. “When it’s around 3:00 in the morning and you hear something, that’s what that’s for. We’re up, that’s what we do.”
Residents should also contact police if they see suspicious people in their neighborhoods, such as strange visitors asking for someone who does not live there or solicitors without proper ID.
“Solicitors are required to check in at Town Hall and get a permit,” Zezza said. “We know the times they’re going to be in town for, on what days and they have to carry identification with them.”
The idea is called “target hardening,” according to Maj. Jay Purcell.
“Part of the job is finding bad guys and locking them up,” he explained. “But the other part is target hardening — take away the opportunity, you reduce the numbers.”2007-082008-092009-102010-11Larceny141 141 128 147Burglary40 27 38 44Robbery5 3 1 5Shoplifting33 35 15 21