Concern over an increasing number of burglaries, robberies and other crime in Bethlehem, particularly the South Side, was evident during the City Council meeting on Tuesday night.
City Council President Robert Donchez got the conversation started by noting that WFMZ-TV, Channel 69, had a story on its Tuesday broadcast noting that there have been 35 burglaries in the city over the past few weeks.
He also said he received a strongly-worded e-mail from a concerned parent of a Lehigh University student. Donchez asked Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics for an update on the recent crime wave.
Bedics told council that the department's newly formed Street Crimes Unit has been directed to concentrate exclusively on this trend and bring it to "conclusion."
The commissioner noted that the crimes have been concentrated around the Lehigh University campus and student apartments, which have been vacant during the holiday break, have been a frequent target of burglars and thieves.
This has always been somewhat true, but never more than this year, Bedics said. On the plus side, the city has worked with Lehigh's own accredited police department to tighten security in the area.
Lehigh police do their own physical checks of student apartments. In some cases, they have discovered burglaries before students returned, Bedics said.
Jack Abel, a South Side resident and a member of the city's Environmental Advisory Committee, told council that his house has been burglarized five different times, sometimes while he was home. He also said that guests often have their cars broken into.
Councilwoman Karen Dolan said she has recently been targeted three times by what she called "aggressive beggars" around Campus Square at Morton and New streets.
"It's virtually impossible to shop in the South Side without being panhandled," Abel told council.
Bedics told council that the city's cooperative agreement with Lehigh police enable the city to access the university's security cameras, which can help the city shut panhandling down.
"We are putting more feet on the street and doing some other creative things," Bedics said. "It's an unfortunate thing that this is happening during the holiday season."
There were four more burglaries and a car theft on the daily media report the police issued on Tuesday.
About $8,000 in jewelry was stolen in one of the burglaries, which happened at 2040 Country Place on Monday between 8:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m., police said. A window on the rear door to the house was broken to gain access to the lock, police said.
Another "elaborate" burglary plot at the Aaron's Rental in the Stefko Shopping Center was apparently foiled when an audible alarm was tripped a little after 3 a.m. Monday morning, police said.
However, someone was able to force entry into the rear of the store through a secure roof hatch, police said. The burglar or burglars were then able to disable one alarm sensor on a door leading to the storage and show room. The alarm was tripped as a burglar tried to cover the lens of an interior surveillance camera, police said.
A laptop computer and numerous pieces of jewelry were taken in a burglary at 7 W. Fourth St. between 5:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, police said. The burglar entered by breaking a second floor window.
Another burglary at 1812 Pennsylvania Ave. netted a burglar about $300 in coins, police said. That break-in occurred between 4:30 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on Monday when a burglar or burglars forced a rear door open and then ransacked the home, going through multiple dresser drawers, police said.
The car stolen was a silver 2007 Dodge Caliber with a significant dent on the passenger side door. The theft occurred on the 1100 block of Grenadier Boulevard between 11:45 a.m. and 1:48 p.m., police said.