With break-ins a nightly event one neighbourhood is banding together

Chris Burley heads the Heritage District Neighbourhood Watch. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Sarnia homes and businesses are being broken into at a rate of nearly one a day, prompting some residents to take action.

September was a typical month, with Sarnia Police tracking 20 residential and nine commercial break-ins.

Hubert Wu’s computer store was hit three times in September, and then again this month. The Oct. 1 break-in at PC Service Depot was the sixth this year and its costliest yet.

“All our MacBooks, all our iPhones, iPads, everything on the shelves are gone,” said Wu, owner of the store on Lambton Mall Road.

The Oct. 1 theft resulted in a $13,000 loss. Another $10,000 of merchandise was stolen in the three September break-ins.

“It looks like they target high-value goods,” he said.

Hubert Wu, owner of a Sarnia computer repair shop that’s been robbed an astounding six times this year. Troy Shantz

The store was broken into twice in February.

The business has a security system and video cameras. Twice the alarm malfunctioned, and in surveillance video recordings the thieves’ faces are covered, making identification difficult for investigators, Wu said.

The frustrated storeowner recently installed steel bars on the windows and doors.

“That’s the only thing I can do,” he said.

Wu suffers from nightmares and said he fears another late-night alarm call from authorities.

Sarnia Police are advising residents and business owners to “fortify” their properties as best they can with surveillance cameras, alarm systems and bright exterior lighting.

“We would love to be everywhere at once if we could, but we just physically can’t,” said Const. John Sottosanti.

Sarnia homes and businesses reported 271 break-ins to Sarnia Police over the first six months of this year. That’s a 13% decrease from the same period in 2018.

Amid the news reports of petty crime and violence, one central city neighbourhood is taking a stand by banding together.

About 70 households have joined the new Heritage District Neighbourhood Watch, which covers a residential area bounded by London Road, Mitton Street, George Street and Brock Street, said organizer Chris Burley.

“It’s happening every night and we didn’t know it was happening every night, because we weren’t communicating,” said Burley, 49.

Six volunteers have been appointed block captains, who act as liaisons, he said. When a member sees something suspicious they email one of the captains who then relays it to the rest of the group.

“Basically, all we’re doing is reporting. We’re reporting back to the group so we can share information,” explained Burley, noting volunteers don’t engage with suspects and police are contacted as needed.

The Neighbourhood Watch also exchanges crime-prevention tips, such as the best security cameras to buy and how keeping hedges trimmed low can help.

Already, a stronger sense of community and security has emerged among the neighbours, Burley said.

“We’re not an angry group of people with pitchforks; we’re sympathetic to the situation,” he said.

“But we’re also realizing the situation is getting worse and it’s probably not getting better anytime soon. The best thing we can do is be a united front.”