Tips from public safety to avoid car break-ins

Isa Grunwaldt, Staff Writer

EGR Neighbors are back at it warning the neighborhood of yet another stolen car. Crazy car crimes have spiked recently in East. Facebook has been inundated with stories of cars being broken into, robbed from, and stolen entirely. Collin Wallace joined law enforcement in 2011 and is now a Liaison Officer of East Grand Rapids. He had a few things to say about property protection and public safety tips for the students and families of East.

As a Liaison officer, Wallace is assigned to the schools and the community instead of normal road control functions. “It allows me a lot more flexibility in what I can get involved with,” Wallace said. “Doing interviews like this, speaking in schools, or doing juvenile investigations all falls under my umbrella responsibility.”

Starting with car safety, Officer Wallace gave some crucial and simple instructions on what East resident car owners should always do: “Lock their vehicle.” 

“I want to say our detective looked at reports from 2020 and over 95% of the time when somebody has something stolen from the inside of their vehicle, the vehicle is unlocked. There were only a couple of reports the entire year where there was actually breaking into someone’s vehicle. If you leave valuable things in your car, hide them under a seat, in a glove box, in the center console, or just don’t leave valuable things in your vehicle. It will solve at least 95% of those problems. A lot of the things that are stolen are things that are not traceable. For example, loose coins are things without a GPS that we wouldn’t be able to track.” 

Officer Wallace knows many people simply forget to lock their cars, and as many residents have probably seen via Facebook, there is a new way the city has started helping out the community.

“The city has recently put something out about a 9 p.m. Lock It Up campaign where you can sign up for a reminder from us that you need to lock your stuff. Like shut your garage door, lock your cars, pull your cars in, or lock them and shut your garage door. I think it’s starting to be the trend Nationwide and it’s something that we thought would definitely help the residents of East Grand Rapids.”

Many people in East don’t think their cars would ever be stolen. East is a very prosperous and low-crime area, however, Officer Wallace still urges caution.

“From reading reports, my assumption is that it doesn’t matter which part of town you live in and whether your car is in the driveway unlocked or whether your car is on the street and unlocked. People have been pretty brazen with what they are willing to do to steal stuff from cars or just steal in general. I would say that everyone everywhere should be locking their property.”

Besides the spike in car crimes, there had also been a case of assault on the high school track which caused shock throughout the community, and Officer Wallace had good safety tips for preventing bad experiences from occurring.

“The recommendations I have are not just going to be for this one specific situation. You should be aware of your surroundings all the time. That means not being on our phones. Good safety tips to keep in mind would be you to do things with other people around in areas that are not well lit, to be aware of your surroundings, and not be using distracting devices. If you are going to use headphones or earbuds you should try just using one so you can still hear what’s going on around you. When you are walking back to a vehicle or you are by yourself, maybe take a second and call someone and say ‘Hey, I’m walking from this place, and could you just stay on the call with me while I walk to my vehicle?’ That being said you can still do everything right and still have a negative experience happen, and that’s terrible, but those things will definitely help to mitigate those situations.”

Knowing a dangerous situation could still happen leads people to buy protection like pepper spray for runs or walks. Officer Wallace gave advice about carrying such weapons and getting too comfortable.

“Nothing is as effective as you think it might be if you aren’t continually practicing. Even as officers we carry pepper spray, but we practice with our pepper spray; how to grab it out of our duty belt and with which hand and which way it goes back in. I would hate for someone to just buy pepper spray and think that ‘Oh, well now I’m safe because I have this because that’s not necessarily the case. I think just overall general awareness and putting yourself in a position for success if something were to happen goes a long way and could be more of a determining factor than me just telling you to go out and by some sort of weapon like pepper spray.”

Officer Wallace’s parting words were for everyone to hold on through the pandemic and the dark winter months.

“The pandemic has been hard for everyone and I think that some people have actually experienced Corona fatigue and then you come into the darker days with winter and people not getting sun and everyone’s just ready to get outside and have summer and get back to normalcy.”

Normalcy has been an elusive feeling lately, but Officer Wallace is hopeful that things will get better soon. As long as the community remembers to lock their cars, be aware of their surroundings, and stay strong through the pandemic, Officer Wallace believes some of the soul-sapping sicknesses within the community will dissipate and there will be more harmony and unity for everyone to enjoy, and eventually, things will truly be normal.