Vandals continue to strike West State Street area

Vandals continue to strike West State Street area

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The rash of vandalisms continues to spread, centering on West State Street, from the Rock River to Weldon Road and from Auburn Street to Montague Road.

Although only two companies would report vandalisms to The Rock River Times, several other businesses on the west side have allegedly faced problems recently.

Automotive companies are among those that have had an abundance of problems. Most of those companies are now requiring customers to sign releases that relieve owners of being responsible for property damage.

Smitty’s Park Automotive, 3240 W. State Street, a towing company, experienced vandalism two weeks ago. “Someone broke in the lot and busted out car windows,” owner Tim Shmit stated.

He stated people broke 40 windows in 20 cars and stole “anything they can get their hands on that’s worth value.”

Shmit is one business owner who isn’t requiring people to sign releases. He will pay for the destroyed windows and valuables for the automobiles that belong to customers. He is unsure how much the windows will cost.

He declined to file a report with the Rockford Police Department. “Nothing’s going to happen anyway,” he said. “It’s happened to me several times before. I filed reports. Nothing happened.”

Shmit, who has been at the West State location for seven to eight years, said countless incidents have occurred. He has only filed reports six times.

Shmit said Rockford police constantly monitor the area and are working as well as possible to prevent crime. “I see them go by all the time,” he said. “Where I’m at, they go by five to six times an hour.”

Shmit believes that kids are responsible for damage, and they somehow evade police to get on his property. He noted police can’t monitor them when they’re on his property.

He feels the solution is for adults to speak with youth. He said police should visit schools, and parents should also speak with kids. “Let them know it’s not right,” he said. One young teenager was caught a year ago. After dealing with a plethora of vandalism incidents, Shmit remained at his business day and night for three weeks to keep an eye out for anything that might go awry.

During that time, he spotted a young teenager breaking into his business and contacted police. The individual was not sent to a juvenile detention center following the incident. “I called police, and they ended up taking him home,” Shmit stated.

At West Side Guys, 4335 W. State Street, unknown persons caused destruction to automobiles including a Cadillac and a Plymouth on March 19 after regular hours.

Vandals cut the company’s chain-link and barbed-wire fence to intrude onto the property. They brought their own tools and materials.

Earlier in March, people vandalized the Cadillac by breaking out windows and stealing stereo equipment. In the latest incident, they used a jack to crank up a car, and they placed a cement block under it to remove the tires.

They also shattered windows in a Plymouth Duster in order to steal the radio inside.

Owner Rob Roberts estimates the damage to be at least $500-$1,000 for the chain-link fence; $500-$2,000 for the barbed-wire fence; and $1,000-$2,000 for the cars.

He has filed 35 to 45 reports for vandalism or car theft in the last four years. He stated methods of protecting his business include obtaining cameras, “which cost a fortune.”

Closed-circuit TV consists of cameras, or

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motion detectors, costing around $500 per camera. They also must have a monitor, which costs between $150-$600. A time-lapse recorder, which continuously records, starts around $690. A regular VCR can be used, but tapes only last up to eight hours.

In September, the business experienced another bout with vandalism. Unknown persons stole a Subaru Justy, which police found two days later. The perpetrators also vandalized about 25 vehicles. The destruction included broken steering columns and stolen radios. Also, the chain-link fence was pulled up in order to invade the property.

He noted police haven’t arrested anyone. He is disgusted that individuals persist in vandalizing his business. “They don’t give a damn,” he said. “The taking of people’s land is no different than the vandalisms down here.”

Other incidents in September:

Midwest Auto Sales of Rockford, Inc., 825 W. State, experienced vandalism when someone broke into eight cars and stole a 1993 Jimmy, which was recovered.

Also, juveniles, ages 12-14, stole two vehicles and were apprehended by police. The company states vandalism hasn’t occurred since September.

Vandals ravaged Dach Fence, 4901 W. State, when they damaged a fence and three company trucks.

Employee Dave Clay noted the people had to have ridden on bikes, as there were tracks on the property. However, a vehicle was used to plow through the fence. The business hasn’t had any further occurrences of vandalism.

· At Rockford Monuments, 4804 W. State St., people kicked over several headstones and one marble, 1,200 lb., headstone footing. They also broke into a company pickup truck and stole other items. The truck was locked but showed no indication of forcible entry. The company maintained that problems haven’t occurred since then.

The county sheriff’s department

The sheriff’s department covers much of the west end in non-municipal areas. Sheriff Richard Meyers wouldn’t expound on any particular measures the department would take, if any, in regard to curtailing crime in that area. “We’ve made several arrests over the course of years,” Meyers noted.

He also said a shortage of manpower isn’t necessarily the problem. “It’s so easy to say you’re short of staff,” Meyers stated. “It’s regularly staffed with squad cars to respond. That is an area we do staff. Would more manpower help? It certainly would.”

Meyers said he can’t surmise a better place in the county where such a high concentration of officers exists. “You’re still going to get that occasional burglary,” he said.

He also noted the department must cover the entire county. Meyers stated the department is breaking down the vandalisms county-wide over the last year to see if they’re higher in other parts of the county in comparison to the west side.

Meyers noted the department and the shop have worked on lighting issues, and the business has made some changes to enhance lighting.

Meyers stated that for the automotive business, a detective took fingerprints and is working on the case.

He also noted that the weekend following the incident, the department staked out the

business. “We put out information to our squads that things are happening in that particular area,” Meyers said.

Meyers stated a large number of officers patrol the west side. “That’s an area where we have squads assigned on a regular basis,” he said. “We have already beefed it up.”

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