CLEVELAND — Cleveland police have made one arrest and identified other suspects after an increase in car break-ins in the downtown area.
Justin School lives in an apartment in the Hanna Building in the Playhouse Square neighborhood, and pays to park his car in a separate, private surface lot, which is not owned by his building, off of Prospect Ave. East. On December 19th, he walked outside to find his car had been broken into.
It didn’t stop there; on Christmas morning, School found that his rental car, his girlfriend’s car, and once again, his car, had all been broken into, windows shattered, glass scattered everywhere. He said other cars parked around his were also broken into.
“Quite a present,” he said of his Christmas day surprise. “I got coal that morning.”
Now, School said he has to wait about a month for the repairs to his car, costs he was not anticipating.
“Even though insurance is covering it, I’ve got over $1,500 in deductibles I’ve got to pay, and I’m out of my car for a month, so is my girl,” he said. “There’s parts shortages, you know, not enough people to work on it and everything.”
Despite the damage done, School said he knows other people have it worse. Still, the break-ins have been upsetting.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I just want to exist, you know. I just want to go to work, come home, that’s it. It’s getting in the way.”
School is not the only one experiencing these frustrations. Jibreel Hazly lives in the same building, and parks in the same private surface lot. His brand new car was broken into on Monday, leaving him to deal with thousands of dollars worth of damage.
“Very frustrating, man,” Hazly said. “It’s very sad, and it’s costing people a lot of money.”
Hazly said he’s heard of about 15 other instances of car break-ins in the area, and School said he had heard of about 20.
That range is also what the Downtown Cleveland Alliance is aware of, though Ed Eckart, senior vice president of operations, said that number could be higher if people aren’t reporting every single break-in. He also said the break-ins can be “regularly sporadic,” with none some nights, and multiple incidents on other nights.
“It’s important to report these crimes so the Cleveland Division of Police can then establish, 'is there a pattern? Are there times of the day or days of the week where these are happening?'” said Eckart. “And the more information that they have, that then helps them in their investigative process, and also in the prosecutorial side.”
The Downtown Cleveland Alliance reached out to downtown stakeholders, such as School and Hazly’s apartment building, to convey updates on the break-ins.
Eckart said these car break-ins and thefts have been happening in the downtown area over the past three weeks in surface lots and garages. He recommended residents and visitors be aware of any suspicious behavior, such as people lingering around parking lots or garage entrances. Eckart suggested reporting any suspicious behavior to police.
He also suggested having a parking plan if you are visiting downtown, and looking into where exactly you will be parking.
“Take the time to look at the different parking locations downtown,” he said. “Check, is there an attendant in the lot that I’m going to use? Is the lot lit?”
Eckart advised people to keep their personal items and belongings at home, rather than in the car. He also said guns are frequently searched for when people break into cars.
“Those little things can go a long way at reducing or eliminating anyone being a victim,” he said.
3News reached out to K&D Management, LLC, the company that manages the residences at the Hanna. 3News was told they do have “cameras and security in all of our lots and garages.” In addition, in the Hanna lot, there are “motion detect lights,” cameras, and security guards who do rounds.
3News also reached out to Cleveland Police, who said the number of vehicles broken into is closer to 10. One suspect has been arrested, and other suspects have been identified, according to police.
Eckart said the Downtown Cleveland Alliance can respond to calls at 216.621.6000 from 7 a.m. to midnight every day, and can provide safety escorts in the downtown area, and can also assist with vehicle lock outs, and gas and battery troubles.