PARKERSBURG - Suspicious activity of any nature should be reported to the authorities as soon as possible, officials said.
When suspicious activity goes unreported, it allows criminal activities to gain a foothold in the neighborhood it happens in, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joseph Martin. The sooner the information is reported, the fresher the evidence is when police arrive at the scene to investigate, Martin said.
On Saturday night or Sunday morning, the Broadway Church of the Nazarene at 901 Broadway Ave. and the South Parkersburg United Methodist Church at 1813 Rayon Drive were broken into, according to police reports. Details were unavailable Monday on the investigations or whether the two incidents were related.
An example of suspicious activity includes persons on church or other property when they should not be there.
The Broadway Church of the Nazarene was broken into from the back alley, said Joyce Briles, church office manager. The window that was broken was in clear view of the alley and the area around it, she said.
The South Parkersburg United Methodist Church was broken into through a stained glass window in the second-floor sanctuary, said the Rev. Jim Plyburn. An external stairwell, clearly visible from Rayon Drive, was used to break into the stained glass window and open it from inside to gain entry, Plyburn said.
The church offices and door frames were also damaged, he said.
"It is a sad irony that they broke into our church," Plyburn said. "We reach out to the community and give away food and clothing to those who need it. If they had come to us and asked us, we would have happily helped instead," he said.
The people of a neighborhood are the ones who would best know what is out of place, Martin said.
"Residents know their neighborhood better than the police do," Martin said. "They know who should be there and who shouldn't. All they have to do is notify any officer within the department, and we will look into any reported suspicious activities," Martin said.
When residents report suspicious activities such as people being where they should not be or people acting strangely, the police can respond to the problems, Martin said.
If criminal activity is allowed to gain a foothold in a neighborhood, that immediate area will deteriorate very quickly, Martin said. "Neighbors will soon accept what used to be suspicious as normal or common behavior," he said.
Suspicious behavior is just that anything out of the ordinary that is happening in the neighborhood, Martin said.
One of the most common reasons why suspicious activity goes unreported is because people don't want to bother the police, Martin said.
"Our job is to investigate suspicious matters that are of concern to the public," Martin said. "When these issues are addressed, it benefits the neighborhood as well as the entire community," Martin said.
Other examples of reasons why people do not want to report activity to the police include people who assume the police already know about the suspicious activity, and people who simply turn a blind eye toward such activities in their neighborhoods, Martin said.
Suspicious activity can be reported anonymously to the Parkersburg Police at www.parkersburgpolice.com. Since the website was opened, the police have been flooded with information, much of which can be used to create firm cases against subjects before they are arrested, Martin said.
Each tip is verified by an officer investigating it, Martin said. When multiple tips come in about the same incident or location, it helps officers identify problem houses and problem neighborhoods, he said.
Tips often lead the department in the right direction and can add to probable cause, which is necessary to make an arrest, Martin said. Every additional detail for a case adds to the possibility for the investigation to end in arrest, Martin said.