His Hamilton neighborhood has been hit by multiple fires. Here’s what he’s doing about it.

Hooven Avenue resident Glenn Rothwell is concerned about the number of people who walk area streets, trying locks of cars and stealing things. It really concerned him this month when a neighbor’s garage in an alley behind their homes burned down after someone set a fire in a nearby trash container. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

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Hooven Avenue resident Glenn Rothwell is concerned about the number of people who walk area streets, trying locks of cars and stealing things. It really concerned him this month when a neighbor’s garage in an alley behind their homes burned down after someone set a fire in a nearby trash container. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

Glenn Rothwell of Hamilton has been distressed by people walking up and down the streets and alleys near where he lives, checking whether car doors are locked, and occasionally stealing from cars that aren’t.

“I hesitate, but it’s a good analogy: It’s like cockroaches — you see ‘em everywhere,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re not doing anything, but it’s not going away. It’s getting worse.”

He’s lived on Hooven Avenue, in Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood, four years, “and I’ve not had a problem until the last year,” maybe 18 months, he said. “What happened would be we’d accidentally leave a car door unlocked — so it’s our own fault,” maybe four times, and they paid the price.

“They’ll steal change, they’ll steal cords for phones, the little chargers that plug into the DC outlet — they love stealing those,” he said.

“They’ll take trash, empty water bottles, they’ll take a swath,” he said.

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He has set up detectors around an alley that go off at all hours of the night when people are walking through.

All that was upsetting enough to him, but in the early-morning hours of May 10, someone lit two fires in trash cans within a couple blocks of each other. One caught a nearby garage on fire. That blaze generated such heat, it damaged two of Rothwell’s vehicles that were parked about 30 feet away. A third fire, about two hours later, happened about seven blocks away, in a garbage back in the back of a pickup truck.

“They were ruled as intentional fires,” said Hamilton fire inspector Trevor Snider.

Since his interview with the Journal-News, Rothwell attended a meeting of Lindenwald’s neighborhood association, PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others; Celebrate Our Lindenwald), where he spoke with group leader Frank Downie, as well as Snider, neighborhood police liaison Officer Chris Gibson and Sgt. John Fischer, also of the Hamilton police.

“I don’t know that it’s different from any other neighborhood when spring comes,” Downie said. “You’ve got longer hours of daylight, there’s warmer temperatures. I’m certainly concerned about it.”

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Rothwell suggested police add alleys to their patrols.

“It’s wonderful that they go down our streets the way they do, but once in a while just cruising down these alleys might be a bit of a deterrent to some of these people walking alleys at night, doing this sort of thing,” Downie said.

About 35 people attended PROTOCOL’s latest meeting.

Police across the region say that in recent years, particularly with heroin addictions, people desperate for money to finance their addictions have been stealing property and from cars across a wide variety of socioceonomic areas, including suburbs, rural areas and city neighborhoods.

“There’s not an uprise in crime in Lindenwald, versus other areas of the city,” said Hamilton Police Officer Kristy Collins, a department spokeswoman.

She offered several tips for people about how to avoid thefts:

  • Don't leave anything of value in your vehicle if you can avoid it. If you must leave something inside, don't have it be in a place where people can see it. Thieves usually won't break windows if they don't see something they want to steal.
  • Always lock your car doors.
  • Keep garage doors closed and locked.
  • If you see someone you consider suspicious, call 911.
  • If there is a crime trend that concerns you, report it to Hamilton's Online 311 Citizen Request Center, which can be found at www.hamilton-city.org.
  • Watch out for your neighbors and their property.

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