Mild winter results in crime uptick in Cleveland Heights
Crimes in Cleveland Heights rose in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period a year ago, most likely because of the mild winter, according to Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg.
According to data compiled by the Cleveland Heights Police Department (CHPD), 26 violent crimes were committed in the city during the first quarter of the year, compared to 12 a year ago and 24 the year before that.
There were 201 property crimes in the January to March period—up from 185 in the same period last year, but well below 247 in the first quarter of 2014.
"When it is snowing and temperatures are colder, we do tend to experience a reduced number of calls for service overall, including less crime," said Mecklenburg, who was sworn in as chief after the Feb. 1 retirement of Jeffrey Robertson. "When we have milder weather . . . our calls for service tend to increase."
The data cited here and in the accompanying charts represents serious offenses defined by the federal government as "Part I" crimes. It does not include lesser "Part II" offenses, which would be too costly to track. (For more information about how the CHPD collects and validates crime statistics, and why the Observer publishes them regularly, see the original article in this series by scanning the QR code or visiting http://tiny.cc/chcrimestats.)
Most of the increase in property crime involved car thefts. In at least 10 cases, the keys were left in the car—glove compartment, center console or even in the ignition, according to Mecklenburg.
"These tend to be crimes of opportunity and there is a good chance that the cars would not have been stolen if they were locked and the keys removed from the vehicle," she said.
A number of auto thefts and robberies also seemed to be linked, and have since been attributed to widespread activity by members of the OTZ (Only The Zone) gang, based on Cleveland's East Side. In May, 11 juveniles were charged in the crimes after a multi-agency investigation that included the CHPD, according to media reports.
Assaults, which also rose, are more circumstantial, Mecklenburg said: ". . . The victim and offender often know each other. Based on a review of [assaults], most began as a disturbance and then escalated."
Mecklenburg said measures taken in response to the data include deployment of additional officers to specific areas in the city where crime had increased; and joint investigation and operations with other area police departments to identify and catch suspects.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.