For the fourth consecutive year, the number of federally reportable crimes (UCR) have risen on Sanibel, jumping four percent in 2009 over the previous year. As Chief of Police Bill Tomlinson reported to the City Council on Tuesday, overall the island remains "an extremely safe place to live."
That's news we all - residents, visitors and visitors alike - like to hear.
In his memorandum to City Manager Judie Zimomra, Tomlinson explained that the number of burglaries fell from 20 to 15, assaults dropped from 20 to 18 and vehicle thefts dipped from four to three.
However, the number of theft cases rose alarmingly, from 81 in 2008 to 94 in 2009.
"Since 2005, the incidents of theft have steadily increased from 57 thefts in 2005 to 94 thefts in 2009," his report stated. "Approximately 40 percent or 35 of the thefts occurred from vehicle in 2009; 80 percent of the thefts from vehicles were to vehicles that were unlocked and 57 percent occurred at night."
The message is clear:
Keep your vehicle locked at all times
Don't leave valuables in your car in plain sight
Throughout the year, whenever a theft occurs on Sanibel, Tomlinson and his police department have been quick to issue reminders to our citizens not to become a victim due to complacency or lack of proper response. In most cases of theft, the crime can be easily avoided by following a few simple guidelines, including:
Park your vehicle in a well lit area
Close all windows and lock your doors after exiting
If leaving valuables in your car, hide them underneath a seat or lock them in your trunk
Be aware of your surroundings; check to see if you are being watched
If you feel unsafe, walk directly to a public place (store, restaurant, etc.) and call 9-1-1
Folks who live, work and play on Sanibel have long considered this a place where we can feel safe bringing our friends and families anywhere on the island. Crime can happen anywhere, but the amount of criminal activity, as well as the types of crimes, seem to learn toward the "lesser" end of the spectrum more than anywhere else in Lee County. Credit the Sanibel Police Department for keeping it that way.
And we all hope to see the island continue to be a safer place in 2010.
- Reporter editorial