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

Seven masked, armed people storm into a cell phone store in Huber Heights and order people to the floor in a brazen daytime robbery.

A Dayton mother shot and killed in front of two young children.

Two Trotwood strangers raped just days and blocks apart in the city in their own homes.

RELATED: 6 juveniles, 1 adult in custody in Huber Heights AT&T robbery, manhunt

Some of the highest-profile Miami Valley crimes in 2018 happened miles apart but had one common thread: teenagers who were arrested and accused.

Law enforcement officials are worried about bad decisions they say young people are making that threaten people’s safety and that have life-altering consequences for the suspects.

“Teenagers, sometimes I don’t think they … think things out thoroughly,” Huber Heights police Chief Mark Lightner said. “I don’t know if they know the risk or don’t know the magnitude of the risk, but when you put (teens) in possession of a gun and commit acts like that, it can be unpredictable as to how they’re going to respond.”

MORE: Woman shot, robbed holding baby in Dayton: Teen could face adult charges

The Dayton Daily News reviewed statistics and spoke with police chiefs from Dayton and some of the biggest suburban areas to learn about crime concerns in our communities. Among the findings:

•Sensational, violent acts are a small part of the crime challenges facing the region, the chiefs said.

•Huber Heights and other communities have seen increases in personal property crimes.

•Some areas, like Beavercreek, face a growing number of retail thefts.

•And nearly all areas — including Dayton and Miamisburg — reported problems from drug and opioid-related offenses, which Miamisburg police Chief John Sedlak said ties back to thefts.

“Drug users require money for drugs, so property crimes increased in direct relation to the drug offenses,” according to Sedlak.

All of those crimes can harm people’s quality of life, sense of safety and pocketbooks.

The Daily News will report more in-depth about the crime concerns in Dayton, Huber Heights, Beavercreek, Miamisburg and Springboro this week. We will keep digging and have other communities this spring.

EARLIER: Violent Dayton gun crimes prompt police changes

Dayton crime rates rise

Dayton last year saw 3 percent increases in both violent and property crimes. Dayton — home to more than 140,000 people — had more residential burglaries, reports of shoplifting and auto thefts and thefts from vehicles.

The opioid crisis likely has impacted property crimes the most in Dayton, police Chief Richard Biehl said, noting that data analysis does not suggest a strong relationship between the drug epidemic and violent crime.

Dayton had 37 homicides in 2018, four more than in 2017.

One occurred on Feb. 16, 2018, when Keyona Murray, 22, was fatally struck in the head by gunfire in a home on the 100 block of Lorenz Avenue.

Murray was shot in front of a 2-year-old child and a 2-year-old nephew. Police arrested a 17-year-old suspect who had a fairly lengthy criminal record as a juvenile.

RELATED: Trotwood rapes: Teen accused of raping 2 women at gunpoint

Police data show that about 94 people last year were injured in Dayton as a result of violent gun crime, which was 18 more than in 2017.

Biehl said though injuries increased, violent gun crime overall dropped last year to the lowest level in a decade, which he called very encouraging. He credited multiple crime-fighting initiatives for the trend.

Biehl said people commit gun violence “over nothing.” Real or imagined slights over the smallest things lead to shootings, which is so sad, he said.

Far too often, minor disputes and conflicts escalate quickly and turn violent because people don’t know how to resolve conflict in a healthy way, said Jared Grandy, Dayton’s Community Police Relations coordinator.

A lot of gun violence isn’t related to gangs or the drug trade – it’s interpersonal conflict that people don’t know how to resolve, and it spirals out of control into shootings, he said.

MORE: Teen shot by off-duty Miami Twp. officer indicted on charges

Neighborhoods need community advocates and resources like community centers to help teach the youth and people how to deal with stress and disagreements in ways that are productive and not dangerous, Grandy said.

“We need places where people can come and learn conflict resolution skills,” he said.

More property crime than violent crime

Far more property crimes are committed than violent crimes, and Miamisburg Chief Sedlak said property crimes are a growing concern in his city.

Drug offenses also have increased in Miamisburg, police said, as have accidental overdoses.

Much of the change in focus to address crime trends “has been related to drug use, so a lot of what we are doing impacts that directly,” according to Sedlak.

MORE: Beavercreek police investigate Helzberg Diamonds break-in near mall

Thefts and property-related offenses continue to account for most criminal activity in Beavercreek, which tend to be committed by drug users looking to trade or sell the goods for drugs, said Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers.

The most common types of theft are shoplifting and thefts of and from motor vehicles, Evers said.

Last year in Beavercreek, the top three locations that generated police incident reports were Walmart (205 reports), the Greene Town Center (132 reports), and the Beavercreek Towne Center (122).

Beavercreek, with nearly 47,000 residents, also has seen growth in reports identity theft and fraud offenses.

Last year, the department received 173 reports of ID theft and fraud crimes, compared to 48 reports in 2010. Activity spiked in 2016 with 207 complaints.

MORE: Dayton’s prostitution problem closely tied to drug issues

“The increase is a result of efforts on the part of criminals to gain access to other people’s personal information and then using that information to steal or commit fraud,” Evers said.

In Huber Heights, with a population of nearly 38,000, theft cases increased nearly 40 percent last year. Theft offenses are heavily concentrated in the commercial areas near Interstate 70.

Chief Lightner said the theft increase started when the opioid crisis hit Ohio, and the increase doesn’t shake his belief in the city.

“I live in this town. I think it’s an overall safe town, a good place to live,” Lightner said.

The city of Springboro’s overall major crime rate is down from the year before, but the rate of violent crime was up overall in 2018, according to FBI crime data.

MORE: Springboro case shines light on human trafficking

Springboro Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff attributed that to the uptick in domestic violence from 32 to 46.

Springboro is fairly small: The city is home to about 18,600 residents.

High profile, but not high rate

Youths were responsible for some of the most shocking crimes that rocked communities in the last year, but Jim Cole, Montgomery County Juvenile Court assistant administrator, said juvenile crime has trended downward here.

“What we see is that there are some very high publicity cases, and those grab the headlines, but overall, the numbers are dropping across the board when it comes to juvenile delinquency,” he said.

But a delinquent 16-year-old’s past brushes with the law helped Trotwood investigators arrest him on suspicion of raping two women at gunpoint in Trotwood’s Salem Village neighborhood. The attacks occurred two days apart in early December.

In the first assault, the suspect entered through a back door and allegedly raped a 24-year-old woman while brandishing a firearm. In the second, the armed suspect came through a back window and raped a 34-year-old woman.

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

The suspect was identified using DNA evidence, which was in the system because of his past, officials said. Previously, he received probation in juvenile court for a felony burglary charge, misdemeanor theft and an unruly charge.

He is accused of acting alone, but seven teenagers — five in adult court, two in juvenile court — were sentenced for the Feb. 1, 2018, Huber Heights AT&T cell phone story robbery.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Det. Brian Shiverdecker had said the seven – who lived throughout the area — belonged to two gangs, Uptown and 2Hunnid, and he estimated 100 youths locally are part of six to eight area gangs.

The two homicides in Huber Heights in 2018 involved teen victims and alleged teen suspects.

Tylin Watson, then 18, was arrested and later indicted for the May 28 shooting death of Sorin C. Farcas, 19, on Charnwood Drive.

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.

Last year, only 15 juvenile crime cases in the county were certified to be transferred to adult court for prosecution, Cole said. Theft is the top referral for juvenile delinquency cases in the county, he said.

Carjackings ‘put people at risk’

Biehl said grand theft auto offenses committed by juveniles is one of the similar crime challenges the city shares with neighboring jurisdictions.

Dayton police received 840 reports of motor vehicle theft in 2018 — 169 more than the prior year — and teens were implicated in some of these crimes.

In September, a 14-year-old boy was arrested after a high-speed chase on North Main Street that lasted about three minutes and ended with the vehicle crashing into a building.

The car was reportedly stolen from a Shell gas station on West Third Street hours earlier.

On Feb. 5, 2018, a 17-year-old Dayton teen was arrested in Miamisburg after allegedly robbing a Byers Road Shell station at gunpoint.

After the robbery, the suspect, Charles Vincent Ashford, tried to carjack vehicles near the Interstate 75/Ohio 725 interchange, authorites alleged.

An off-duty officer shot Ashford, ending a situation where, in the words of a judge, “there were potentially hundreds of people put at risk.”

Ashford was hit by gunfire in the arm during a chaotic scene that drew several law enforcement agencies to the Miamisburg interchange. Court records show Ashford, now 18 and being tried as an adult, fired a gun at police and claimed to be an undercover FBI agent.

Authorities said Ashford’s crime spree began the night before his arrest, on Feb. 4, when he carjacked a driver in Dayton.

Staff writers Nick Blizzard, Lawrence Budd, Mark Gokavi and Richard Wilson contributed to this report.

Local crime, by the numbers

1,087 — Theft cases in Huber Heights in 2018

782 — Theft cases in Huber Heights in 2017

173 — ID theft and fraud crimes in Beavercreek last year

37 — Homicides in Dayton in 2018, four more than 2017

46 — Domestic violence cases in Springboro in 2018.

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