ROCHELLE — Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby said last week that despite what you may see on social media, car thefts and burglaries in town are not up from last year.
Local Facebook groups have seen multiple posts of car burglaries in town over recent weeks and the summer. Higby said there have been 15 car burglaries this year so far and there were 15 in all of 2020. There have been eight car thefts this year and there were nine in 2020.
"Honestly they're just about identical to last year,” Higby said. “This year, it seemed like our car thefts were up and that vehicle burglaries were up. I suppose we have another couple of months where we could surpass those numbers of last year. Any time we run numbers like that, you could pretty much pick your category and think that we'll be higher this year, but we don't end up having many spikes.”
Higby said during the summer there was “a rash of” 3-5 car thefts in a week or two.
“I was thinking this year we'd have more,” Higby said. “When you have a rash of them like that and they're right on top of each other, it gives that perception, public or internally, that we're having an uptick. Social media is a big part of that too.”
Higby detailed the steps that are taken following a car burglary or theft that include fingerprinting the car, checking Ring doorbell cameras and other types of cameras in the area and speaking with neighbors and owners of the vehicles.
Higby said that “almost none” of the impacted vehicles are actually broken into and that the vehicles involved are usually unlocked.
“It's people leaving cell phones or change and things like that,” Higby said. “That's what the people are looking for is a quick grab. We'll literally have people tell us they'll watch these people go up and down the streets and they're yanking on door handles. If they're locked, they'll go to the next car rather than break in. The next one will likely be unlocked. If people would just lock it up, that's how you keep your stuff safe. Don't keep your keys in your car either. That's what happened with most of the car thefts this year."
Higby said the department tries to remind residents to lock up their cars on social media and during some neighborhood watch meetings.
The Rochelle Police Chief said the burglaries in town this year have not been in a specific area and have been “pretty much all over the place” from the north side to the south side and in the middle of town. The most recent one was Sept. 24 at the Petro Travel Plaza, Higby said.
Some burglaries may go unreported in town due to victims not thinking that anything is missing from their vehicle, despite not finding it how they left it.
“I will say I'm aware that some people will be the victims of burglaries or criminal trespass to a vehicle where they get up in the morning and can tell their stuff has been rifled through but they don't really feel like anything's missing, so they take to social media and they don't call us.” Higby said. “The other day we caught people doing burglaries and found some property on one of the guys but we couldn't tie it back to a specific car. Nobody came forward, so there was no arrest. You don't have a victim. That happens probably more often than we know."