The City of Ithaca was hit with a string of crimes over the summer, which has included a high number of burglaries, robberies and criminal trespassing charges.
Between late May and mid-August, the Ithaca Police Department responded to 27 burglaries, six robberies and 32 incidents of criminal trespassing, according to the department’s public records. Among the allegedly burglarized businesses are the Subway Subshop on Elmira Road, Ithaca to Go on Taber Street and Ithaca Grain and Pet Supply on West Seneca Street.
“We’re getting hammered,” Jamie Williamson, public information officer for the IPD, said. “We have had a significant increase in the number of larcenies and burglaries.”
Some of these incidents are still being investigated, and therefore their classifications are subject to change in the future. As of now, all of the cases are still open, and Williamson said the IPD is unsure if the perpetrators are the same for each of the crimes, and it has been difficult to try and track them down.
“It’s baffling because it’s hard to predict a pattern on the burglaries,” Williamson said. “They’re mostly commercial buildings … Burglaries have the cover of darkness, and there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason on why he or she or they are hitting any one specific business.”
John’s Convenient Food Mart, located on West State Street, was one of the latest commercial businesses to be broken into, with the crime occurring Aug. 18. The alleged perpetrator was found hiding outside the building after attempting to gain access to the store by breaking its glass front door, according to the IPD.
John Tadros, the owner of the business, said he has been there for 21 years and has only experienced one other criminal incident at his store about five years ago when someone smashed a window.
“I moved from Syracuse; that’s why I came to Ithaca,” Tadros said. “I had a business in Syracuse and had nothing but problems over there: break ins, hold ups. I’m surprised that this happened. Even my customers are kind of surprised.”
A group of burglarized businesses have banded together on social media to create the Ithaca Business Burglaries Facebook page. The page is dedicated to keeping the community aware of the crimes happening across the city, and the businesses have also raised a $1,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information about the burglaries.
While the IPD can’t assume if or why certain businesses are being targeted, Williamson said he thinks the increase in the frequency of the crimes is due to the lack of resources to which the IPD has access.
“I don’t think that we’re understaffed — I know that we’re understaffed,” Williamson said. “We understand budget constraints … but on the same token, we are expected to provide certain services for our community. … It’s frustrating because we’re not given the adequate resources to meet and exceed those expectations.”
The IPD currently only employs 62 police officers, four of whom are on long-term disability leave, and Williamson said they are not expected to return to patrol any time soon. This is considered low compared to the mid-70s the IPD employed about five years ago and the thousands employed by big-city departments like the New York Police Department, Williamson said. This has caused the IPD to operate on a “mission critical” level, only having the resources to address situations that are critical for day-to-day operations of the department as a whole.
While the IPD has its hands full, Terri Stewart, director and chief of the Ithaca College Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, said Public Safety is responding to the high-crime situation by staying in the loop with the other law enforcement departments around the city.
“We try to be preventative,” Stewart said. “The county and the city share information with us on a regular basis. In fact, the Ithaca College Public Safety holds a monthly information investigators’ meeting where all of the area law enforcement come together [to share information].”
Stewart said Public Safety urges students to practice precautionary measures, like locking doors and not leaving personal belongings unattended, to ensure their belongings remain safe.
“If you’re not being preventative, you’re being responsive,” Stewart said. “If you see something, say something. We’re a safe campus, but at the same time it’s a collaboration … Don’t be afraid to call. Don’t be afraid to use the emergency call boxes; that’s what we’re here for.”