Huber Heights police respond to a scene. FILE
Photo: FILE PHOTO/Staff
Photo: FILE PHOTO/Staff

Chief: Drug use drives hundreds more thefts in Huber Heights

Lightner says city remains a safe place to live.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) show violent and property crimes in Huber Heights mostly dropped from 2015 through 2017, but in 2018 the city had two homicides and a rise in theft cases from 782 a year before to 1,087. In 2016, the theft number was 1,003.

RELATED: Teen crime, thefts and drugs top concerns for area police chiefs

“Dating back several years ago when the opioid use started to increase, our thefts went up, shoplifters, things like that,” Huber Heights police Chief Mark Lightner said. “But that’s been for several years now, and we continue to deal with that.”

Lightner said his department works with loss prevention employees in stores to help solve cases and book shoplifters into jail.

Much of the theft came from commercial areas along Old Troy Pike, Brandt Pike and near Interstate 70, according to an online crime mapping tool available from the Huber Heights police department.

“That’s only the things that are reported,” said Huber Heights Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Bruns, adding he thinks many theft victims don’t contact police. “That theft number is probably really, really low.”

Bruns, a former Huber Heights police officer, said his group presents a small business group meeting to go over safety topics.

RELATED: After ‘remarkable year’ for crime decreases in Dayton, numbers ticked up in 2018

Bruns said there is a retail theft meeting planned for November. He said he will emphasize to business owners to be aware of groups of people entering stores and splitting up, greeting customers when they enter and reviewing money and deposit practices.

The Daily News on Sunday launched a six-part look at crime in local communities that includes Dayton, Huber Heights, Beavercreek, Miamisburg and Springboro. We will keep digging and have other communities this spring.

Cell phone store robbery ‘most brazen’

Two teens were arrested for killing two other teens in residential neighborhoods in ongoing murder cases in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Seven more teens were sentenced in juvenile and adult court for a daylight armed robbery at the AT&T store on Old Troy Pike.

“They’re not the only teens we’ve had involved in activity like that,” Lightner said, referencing the Feb. 1, 2018, AT&T store robbery. “That was the most brazen though.”

VIDEO: Surveillance cameras show cell phone store robbery

Overall, Huber Heights’ violent crimes were down from 77 in 2017 to 66 in 2018.

The UCR showed Huber Heights had two murders after none in 2017, one in 2016 and none in 2015. The 2018 violent crimes include: 21 rapes; 27 robberies; and 16 aggravated assaults.

Those numbers reflect a rise in rapes (15 in 2017) but a decrease in robberies (21 in 2017) and a big drop in aggravated assaults (41 in 2017).

RELATED: Daytime heist foiled in Huber Heights: 5 things to know

Huber Heights’ 2018 UCR also showed property crimes rose from 2017’s 951 to 1,190 in 2018. They included 81 burglaries; 1,087 thefts; 17 motor vehicle thefts; and five cases of arson.

Homicides ‘aren’t random acts’

Lightner has been the city’s chief for six years, but he joined the department in 1992.

He said residents now can register their surveillance cameras in a database used to help solve crimes. Similar programs have started in Kettering and Riverside, among other communities.

Both homicide cases were solved from the police perspective: two suspects were indicted for murder.

RELATED: Competency evaluation ordered for defendant in Huber Heights homicide

“Those are targeted homicides that aren’t random acts,” Lightner said. “When people involve themselves in certain activities, sometimes there’s a bit of a risk involved.”

Tylin Watson, then 18, was arrested and later indicted for the May 28 shooting death of Sorin C. Farcas, 19, on Charnwood Drive. Farcus was a student at Sinclair Community College.

Watson was indicted on counts of murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, kidnapping and having weapons under disability.

RELATED: ‘They shot him in the head’: Call describes scene after Huber Heights killing

Watson is due for a suppression hearing today to challenge the photo spreads used to identify him as a witness. Watson also faces an unrelated case of aggravated possession of drugs.

Police said Evan C. Lewis, 19, was shot and killed Aug. 5 and was found at the corner of Bellefontaine Road and Hilgeford Drive.

Levi D. Lambert, 19, was arrested and later indicted on counts of murder, felonious assault, improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation and tampering with evidence.

RELATED: Last of seven defendants in Huber Heights AT&T robbery sentenced

Lambert is scheduled for a suppression hearing on April 26 to challenge the identification process of Lambert as a suspect.

The February daytime armed robbery of the AT&T store led to the indictments of seven teens — five who were sentenced in adult court and two more in juvenile court.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Det. Brian Shiverdecker previously said the seven suspects belonged to two gangs (Uptown and 2Hunnid) and that 100 youths locally are part of six to eight gangs.

RELATED: Detective: Teen gangs more volatile, violent

Caleb Johnson, Taveon Felton, Skyver Palmer, Dannell Robinson and Damion Raglin all were sentenced in adult court for their part in the robbery that included masks and guns. Two other teens were sentenced in juvenile court.

“Primarily, Huber Heights is a safe place to live,” Lightner said. “We have a lot of shopping where people come from other cities to shop here. We’ve got entertainment with the Rose Music Center.”

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