After strings of vehicle burglaries throughout McLennan County, two local police departments are employing a catchy social media campaign to remind residents to protect themselves.
Late last year, area police agencies started reporting an increase in burglaries, primarily of unlocked cars.
“We had areas off of Panther Way, off of Old Temple Road, and there were a bunch of different neighborhoods, but when these things were happening, we weren’t the only ones being hit,” Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said. “Other communities that surround us were being struck as well with these kinds of burglaries.”
In one instance, at least 20 unlocked cars were burglarized between Lorena and Hewitt neighborhoods in one night in early January. In another, Robinson police reported a sting of car burglaries in late December when six unlocked cars were burglarized in one night.
Officers with Lacy Lakeview, Woodway, Texas State Technical College, West and Waco police have also reported residents having property stolen from unlocked cars this winter. Many of the victims have reported firearms taken from their vehicles.
Hewitt and Robinson police have turned to a “#9pmroutine” campaign to push back against the apparent trend by encouraging residents to lock their vehicles.
Hewitt police reported three car burglaries and five residential burglaries in November 2017 and one residential burglary was reported in December, Devlin said. While no formal car burglary complaints were filed in December, Devlin said there were at least 12 reports of vehicle burglaries, but residents did not wish to file formal complaints.
In the first two weeks of January, 10 formal complaints of unlocked car burglaries were filed, Devlin said.
“One hundred percent of all the vehicle burglaries were nonforced entry. Every single one of them were items taken from an unlocked car or home,” Devlin said. “We knew we needed to come up with a plan on how to attack this issue.”
Devlin said he found an effort called the #9pmroutine implemented by the Seguin Police Department. The agency posted social media videos encouraging residents to make it a routine to lock car doors, remove valuable itmes from cars and lock their homes at 9 p.m. They promoted the effort on social media using the hashtag “9pmroutine.”
“My administrative assistant came up with the idea of the #HewittHustle, which is a catchy phase, and that was the whole point of it,” Devlin said. “We wanted people to ask what that is, so every night, as we market it and push it out over our social media efforts, people are reminded to lock their cars and homes to prevent becoming a victim of a burglary.”
In the last two weeks of January, Devlin said reported car burglaries significantly dropped to three car burglaries. One car burglary was reported between Feb. 1 and Feb. 15, he said.
In late January, the Robinson Police Department also joined the #9pmroutine effort using “#Rock-ItOutside,” a hashtag proposed by a Robinson Volunteer Fire Department firefighter. It is a play on the Robinson High School Rockets mascot. Police Chief Phillip Prasifka said six unlocked cars were burglarized in Robinson on Jan. 23 and 13 burglaries were reported Jan. 26.
“We began using the #9pmroutine initiative on January 27. That is posted on both the police department’s Facebook page and on Twitter @chiefPrasifka,” Prasifka said. “The department has only had two reported vehicle burglaries since we began the #9pmroutine, but those two are not like residential neighborhood vehicle burglaries that we were having.”
Prasifka said the two most recent burglaries reported involved recreational vehicles or trailers in storage facilities, and it is unclear when the offenses happened. He said he hopes the social media effort will catch on with other agencies and the McLennan County community will help to decrease crime.
“While we cannot say that the #9pmroutine is the reason for the burglaries stopping, we know that the more citizens we can reach to educate, together in partnership we can minimize the opportunity for crime,” Prasifka said. “The community and the police department must work together to make our community safe.”