Zikuski: Despite rise in break-ins, city is safe

By Perry Russom

June 27, 2013 Updated Jun 27, 2013 at 9:42 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton is one of 17 police departments across the state to receive federal funds to help fight crime.

This year, the department is receiving $381,700 from a state grand, Operation Impact.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said the grant money can be used to fight burglary, robbery and aggravated assault.

After a week of home and car break-ins, the chief stressed the city is safe. The break-ins are still under investigation

"A lot of these larcenies from cars, it's not a serious, very serious, serious crime," said Zikuski. "(The thieves) are taking $2, $3, $4 in change. People are leaving their cars unlocked and kids are going in. We know they're kids."

Two of the biggest crimes on which the city is focusing its efforts are burglary and larceny.

In a comparison of monthly crime rates, the number of burglaries is down. In May 2012, there were 204 burglaries. This past May, that number slid down to 174 burglaries.

Unlike burglaries, the number of car break-ins are up. In May 2012, there were 13. This past May, there were 43.

"It's groups moving around," said Zikuski. "They're not making big scores that are going to make them rich, but they got something. They stole a laptop, go to a pawn shop and get $50 for it and they think they hit the lottery."

Ryan said Binghamton's rise in home break-ins mirrors what law enforcement agencies are seeing across the state.

"Obviously we're concerned about every crime that takes place, but one year rises aren't necessarily an indication of where your crime rates are going," said Mayor Matt Ryan

Ryan blamed the 2011 flood for the rise in property crime rates when copper was being taken from homes and sold at scrap yards.

"We want to have stricter legislation at the county level, not only for those kinds of metal issues at junkyards, but also we want to make sure pawn shops and silver and gold exchanges have a better way to hold onto what they're dealing with," said Ryan.

Ryan and Zikuski both said passing county-wide legislation on the sale of stolen items in pawn shops would help deter criminals.

"If they have no place to get rid of this stuff, then obviously those numbers are going to drop," said Zikuski.

Zikuski admitted most of the criminals in these cases are not caught a majority of the time.

The department will continue an initiative started a year and half ago when they noticed a rise in car break-ins on the city's west side.

Police officers started to place break-in prevention cards on windshields that had doors unlocked, electronic equipment visible or a GPS bracket visible.

After saturating the area with cards, the number of break-ins dropped significantly, Zikuski said.