Break-ins getting old to Sandusky antique shop owner

SANDUSKY It had been two weeks since the breaking-and-entering occurred. It had been
May 24, 2010



It had been two weeks since the breaking-and-entering occurred.

It had been three days since he reported the missing antique rifle and other possessions the burglar stole.

But on Thursday, Gerard Schmitz still hadn't heard from a Sandusky police officer about what the department was doing to catch the thief.

"They haven't come down to take any fingerprints, they haven't contacted me to ask any questions, I mean, what the hell are they doing?" Schmitz asked. "They didn't even inform the businesses next door that a crime had occurred. Maybe I'm crazy, but that's something they should do."

Schmitz owns RJ's Antiques, a downtown business on East Market Street.

He lives above the shop, and while Schmitz was vacationing in South Carolina during the holidays, a burglar smashed open the glass door and entered his apartment.

On Dec. 27, the mail carrier noticed the shattered entrance and reported it to police.

The investigating officer, Sgt. Tracey Susana, inspected the apartment and determined nothing had been disturbed, but Schmitz said he noticed something was amiss as soon as he returned home.

Someone had rifled through drawers in his living room and taken more than $1,500 worth of property, he said. Among the missing items was an antique rifle given to him by his great-grandfather.

"If you just walked in and you didn't know, you might not think things had been disturbed," Schmitz said. "But as soon as I walked in, I saw they had gone through that drawer and this drawer."

Schmitz didn't return to Sandusky until this week, and immediately went down to the police station to add the stolen items to the report.

Susana wasn't on duty, but officers told him she returned to work on Wednesday, and she'd be in touch. As of Friday evening, she still hasn't called him, Schmitz said.

"The city needs to address this," he said. "I've had four incidents now. They'll never be able to rejuvenate downtown unless they get rid of this crime."

According to Sandusky assistant police Chief Charlie Sams and Det. John Orzech, downtown isn't a particularly bad area for burglaries. In 2008, there were 39 commercial burglaries in the city, and in 13 of those cases, the perpetrators were caught.

Sams said that's a normal rate of clearance, and not all of those incidents might have been "true" burglaries.

He said someone could do something as simple as throwing a rock through a window, and the case could initially be labeled a burglary. But a major offense might not have occurred.

Most downtown shop owners said they felt safe, but would prefer if the police informed them when a crime occurs.

"Just so we can keep a close eye on things," said Dearin Behrendsen, the warehouse manager at San-Bay Company, which is located across from Schmitz' residence. "We keep an eye on things anyway, but it would be a nice courtesy."

This isn't the first time Schmitz has had trouble. Someone stole property from his car several years ago. Someone entered his store after hours through his shop's backdoor. And an old employee used his key to sneak in and steal money from the cash register.

Last year, RJ Antique's, Needful Things and the Zinc Brasserie restaurant were all hit in a one-week string of burglaries. The perpetrator was never found.

Schmitz said he doesn't want to pester the police, but wants to live and work downtown knowing he's safe.

"If I continue to have problems, I'm going to keep reporting them," he said. "I don't want to be a nuisance, but I want to stay in Sandusky and run my business. If I don't feel safe, I can't do that."

He said he will address the city commission Monday at its bi-weekly meeting.