Editorial: Action needed by police, residents to deter property crimes

It has been a rough summer for the City of Westminster when it comes to crime in the community.

At the end of June, there was a spate of thefts from unlocked cars in the area of Uniontown Road. In July, a vehicle was stolen after a house was burglarized and the keys were taken. Near the end of the month, guns were fired on East Green Street twice in less than a week in incidents police believe are drug-related. Most recently, there have been a rash of thefts from automobiles, including another car stolen, again in the area of Uniontown Road. The vehicle was later discovered abandoned in southwest Baltimore.


Perhaps, in an odd sort of way, we should be thankful that these kinds of property crimes get our attention in Carroll County. That is far better than the number of serious, violent crimes experienced in some nearby jurisdictions. However, we realize that is of little solace to the victims of these thefts and does even less to make residents feel safe.

On Wednesday, police released descriptions of suspects who were seen by a citizen inside a family member’s vehicle on Rich Mar Street — in the area where other thefts from vehicles occurred — with one of the individuals appearing to brandish a handgun as they fled the scene. A $500 reward has been offered for information leading to their arrests.

Earlier this week, Westminster police Chief Jeff Spaulding told residents at the Mayor and Common Council meeting they were working with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police on the shootings that occurred in July, but thus far have not identified a suspect.

While we know that police work isn’t as cut and dry as we see on TV, it would certainly go a long way toward quelling residents’ fears if law enforcement were to make arrests in these open cases and get the perpetrators off the street. We have little doubt investigators are doing all they can to that end.

And to their credit, Westminster police have made themselves available to concerned citizens. Two officers met with a group of residents at the Community Room at the Westminster Municipal Pool last week to talk about recent criminal activity. And after people packed the Mayor and Common Council meeting Monday night following the car theft, again Chief Spaulding and other officials were there to try to answer questions.

While this is good, action is better. Police have increased nighttime patrols in the area of Uniontown Road, where many of these incidents have occurred in recent weeks, Spaulding told us.

Residents need to be part of the solution, too. That means reporting any suspicious behavior to police immediately. Spaulding noted that trying to locate individuals on foot in a residential community is challenging, because there are many hiding places available and they will likely see or hear approaching vehicles, including police cars. That’s why it is important suspicious activity and people be reported by calling 911 right away.

It also means taking steps to prevent crime. When you live in a traditionally low-crime area like Carroll County, it is easy to become complacent. Make locking your vehicle and your doors part of your routine before bed, or whenever you get home. Just doing that would have prevented a majority of these crimes.

Also make sure that spare keys aren’t easily accessible. In the most recent car theft, the suspect likely used a valet key. Some vehicle owners may be unaware a valet key is in their car. Check the glove box and the owner’s manual to see if you have one, then either remove it from the car or lock it inside the glove box until you need it.

Concerned residents may also contact Westminster police to do a free residential security survey to provide guidance on how to best protect your home and vehicles.

Not all crime, but a majority of it, is preventable. Residents taking steps to protect their property, along with an engaged police force, will help to deter these types of crimes in the future.