Oak Park police are investigating the latest outbreak of what Deputy Chief Robert Scianna last week called a "nagging problem." Ten garage burglaries or attempted garage burglaries were committed over one night in Oak Park early last week, with eight of the incidents occurring in a square half-mile area of southeast Oak Park. Two other two break-ins occured within a block of each other in northwest Oak Park. Thieves stole everything from tools to several snowblowers to a new toilet.
All of the break-ins involved a combination of pry tool and force applied to garage service doors. In general, losses were in the $300-$700 range, though a burglary in the 800 block of Woodbine netted thieves over $5,200 in assorted tools.
"This has been a nagging crime problem in Oak Park for years," said Scianna. "That and auto-related crimes." The attractions, he said, are easy pickings and quick money.
"They're going to look for the easy ones to break into," Scianna said of garage burglars.
Besides installing strong locks and remembering to close overhead doors, Scianna said, homeowners can help make it more difficult for would-be burglars by lighting areas around their garage and cutting back trees and shrubs that may hide activity. Still, there are no guarantees.
"You can do all those things and still get broken into," said Scianna. "It's just so easy to find an isolated alley and go up and down for a couple of blocks," he said. "You can even drive down the street and look down alleys."
There were three additional and unrelated overnight garage burglaries last week. The first two were on Jan. 6 in the 1100 block of Hayes and on Jan. 7 in the 1000 block of Randolph.
Not every garage burglar apparently uses a car. Around 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 10, police observed Steve Williams, aka Terry Ray, 46, of 5921 W. Ohio St., pushing a shop vacuum and dolly down an alley near Austin and Ontario. The items had allegedly been taken from an open garage in the 100 block of North Lombard. Williams was paroled from the Illinois Department of Corrections last month for a 2004 retail theft conviction.