Woodland residents growing weary from the high number of burglaries

By Lynn R. Parks

The tiny village of Woodland is a quiet area. "Not much goes on around here," said long-time resident Linda Birch. "It's pretty remote." But remote doesn't mean crime-free. In the last six months, the Delaware State Police have been notified of nine burglaries or attempted burglaries in the Woodland area. That is pretty high, considering the number of houses in the area, said police spokesman Cpl. Bruce Harris. "It's gotten crazy around here," said Woodland-area resident Wanda Miller, who believes that the number of burglaries is even higher than has been reported. "It seems like every day you hear about someone else who has been broken into. People are angry and scared."

"I can't rest at night," added another area resident who asked that her name not be used. Twice, she said, someone has tried to break into her home.

The second time, she was home and could hear someone trying to jimmy open a window. "Something's got to give," she added. "It is getting to be a little much around here."

Miller said that she knows of one man whose house has been broken into several times. At least once, she said, he was home. "People tell me that they are thinking about buying guns," Miller said. "I'm afraid that somebody is going to get hurt or even killed. That would be a shame."

Her husband, Bill, agreed that it is becoming more and more likely that someone will get hurt. "I'm very concerned," he added. He plans to introduce the topics of crime and crime prevention at an upcoming meeting of the men's group at Woodland United Methodist Church, to try to find something that area residents can do to change the tide.

Harris said that remote areas, where neighbors live far apart from one another, often are targeted by would-be burglars. He said that it is important for residents to notify police whenever an incident takes place. It's also important, he said, for residents to pay attention to who is coming and going in the neighborhood.

"Residents should always be cognizant of vehicles driving by, especially at a slow rate," he said. "They could be casing the situation, getting a pattern of activity to figure out when people are usually away."

The Woodland-area thefts have largely been of objects that the burglars can pick up and carry easily, Harris said; electronic devices and items made of metal are particularly targeted, he added.

For those who can afford it, he said, an alarm system is the best way to chase off would-be burglars. "Signs stating that you have an alarm system and that your house is being monitored help to deter crime," he said.

He said that residents should always lock doors to their homes and to their cars. "Make sure to keep things of value out of view. Do whatever you can to make it hard on the thieves."

Installing exterior lighting, either security lights or lights that come on when they sense motion, is also a good strategy, he added. "Lighting is the least expensive psychological deterrent to burglaries," he said.

A security light did nothing to deter a theft at the home of another Woodland resident who does not want her name used. Last August, she came out of her house and got into her car, only to discover that during the night, someone had taken a wheel off of the vehicle. In the wheel's place was a concrete block.

"The car was parked under a security light and still they took the tire," she said. "And they must have brought their own cement block. I was flabbergasted.

"This area has always been a good area," she added. "Now all of a sudden, we're being bombarded with break-ins." "Everybody in the neighborhood is petrified," said Woodland-area resident Judy Kitchen. Last spring, her car was broken into. "I think the only thing that kept them out of our house is the fact that we have four big dogs," she said. "It is getting crazy down here. And it's too bad because it's such a great area."

Birch, who has lived in the Woodland area for 30 years, is concerned that many of the victims of the burglaries are older residents who live alone.

"They seem to be targeting senior citizens," she said. "I really worry about the older people."

For your information State Police spokesman Cpl. Bruce Harris urges anyone with suspicions or concerns about burglaries to report them to state police. Residents of western Sussex can call Troop 5 in Bridgeville, 337-1090. In case of emergency, dial 9-1-1.

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