Public awareness of neighborhood crime was the main objective of a Fianna Hills community partnership meeting hosted by the Fort Smith Police Department at House of Restoration Church, 6115 US-271 S., Thursday evening.

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources available, but there are trends that we’re seeing in your neighborhoods,” said Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, public information officer for the department.

The meeting addressed a rash of vehicle break-ins in and around Fianna Hills, Fianna Place and Southfield Heights.

“There are officers in the room right now who work those neighborhoods, and as an officer patrolling an area, we take it personally when something happens in those areas,” said Sgt. Grubbs.

Several of the officers and detectives attending were also residents of those neighborhoods, and could speak specifically to other residents about reporting suspicious activity. Grubbs explained to the attendees that an estimated 95 percent to 99 percent of vehicle break-ins are being committed because valuables are being left in vehicles overnight.

“The idea of criminals with flashlights and breaching tools to get into your car is outmoded,” said Grubbs. “They just don’t do that any more. Criminals have learned that if they hit middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, all they have to do is be patient, and just walk down the streets, flipping door handles.”

Grubbs explained that high-dollar electronic items, such as stereos and GPS units, and portable electronic items, such as laptops and tablets, are common targets for criminals. But he stressed the one item that is being taken from vehicles that is the most dangerous: firearms.

“We’re seeing a lot of weapons being taken from unlocked vehicles,” said Grubbs. “About a year ago, we had a homicide of a young college student, and the weapon used was from a breaking and entering. I just could not fathom if it was my weapon left in a vehicle that I had inadvertently left unlocked was stolen and used to kill someone, but we’re seeing that.”

Another point stressed at Thursday’s meeting was the need for neighbors to be more involved. Officers drove home the need for people to report suspicious activity in their areas, regardless of whether it turns out to be nothing.

Detective David Williams noted that many stores and businesses in the Fianna Hills area are closed at night, so regardless of how a person is dressed or what they look like, the police want residents to report when they see someone they don’t recognize walking around late at night. For patrol officers, it’s a lot of area to cover, so the more eyes on the streets, the better.

“Some people are of the mindset, ‘Someone else will call,’” said Williams. “If you see something, say something. We want those calls. We want the stereotypical nosy neighbor constantly on the phone. We can use whatever information you pass on to help catch those criminals who are victimizing your neighborhoods.”