When the Marietta Police Department began investigating a series of six daytime burglaries between Feb. 9 and March 2 in a small section of the city limits, they found an astounding number of people were simply leaving their doors unlocked.
They felt safe, and they're not alone.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Marietta Police Patrolman Joe Hilverding, right, looks at photographs of damage done to a vehicle in a car crash on Colegate Drive with Sgt. Bob Heddleston, back, while Sgt. Rod Hupp examines the vehicle Friday afternoon. Police are staying active with calls including car crashes, but overall crime in the city has decreased over the last decade according to the Department of Justice.
More than 57 percent of people surveyed in an AARP study conducted last year said they feel personal safety in the city is not a problem, and only seven percent said it was a big issue.
Those feelings of security are backed up by the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to figures compiled by the Department of Justice, five of eight categories of crimes have decreased substantially over the last decade, and only two have seen an increase.
By the numbers
Statistics for crimes in the city of Marietta (listed every five years for the last 10 years for which statistics are available)
Motor vehicle theft
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
"It tells me we're on the right track and that we're making a difference," said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite. "You want your residents to not only be safe, but feel safe."
Since 2001, there have been decreases in crime reports inside the city limits in the areas of violent crime, forcible rape, property crime, burglary, larceny theft and motor vehicle theft.
The two areas that saw an increase in crime - robbery and aggravated assault - were just four and one incident higher in 2010, the last year for which figures are available, than what they were in 2001.
Property crimes went down from 476 in 2001 to 360 in 2010 while motor vehicle thefts went from 31 to just six.
Forcible rape dropped from 15 in 2001 to nine in 2010.
Those declining numbers are more than just a trend, said Waite. They're a result of a community that works with law enforcement to protect neighbors, he said.
"I compliment our citizens because they do call us when they see something," Waite praised.
Crime figures are only compiled by the Department of Justice for cities with a population greater than 10,000.
Rates are calculated based on a population of 100,000, with Marietta falling below Parkersburg in every category except one, forcible rape.
Adrian Van Dyk, owner of Van Dyk Rentals, has lived in Marietta for more than 30 years, and said not only does he feel safe in the city, so do his renters.
"One of the things I emphasize (to renters) is the fact that Marietta is a city that has a low crime rate," Van Dyk said. "Unfortunately, we can't have zero, but we do have a low crime rate. That's a positive benefit of living in the city of Marietta."
When he was younger, Van Dyk said he would often go for walks late at night in the city and felt perfectly safe.
"I think Marietta is a pretty safe city to be in," Van Dyk said.
Low crime rates have an effect on more than just the citizens, as they also impact the tourism industry, said Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
"Showing that our local law enforcement, be it on the city or county level, is active, proactive and taking care of business is a benefit to everyone, including travel and tourism," Knowlton said.
Each year, Marietta hosts several thousand guests for events such as the Riverfront Roar, Ohio River Sternwheel Festival and the monthly Merchants and Artist Walks.
Despite all the people in the downtown area for those events, there are seldom any real issues with public safety, Knowlton said.
The Marietta Police Department has officers on foot and bike patrols during the events, and tourists expect they will be cared for.
"I absolutely think that (safety) is part of the expectation when people come to Marietta," Knowlton said. "They see this as a very welcoming, family atmosphere type town. It has all of that small town charm."
Small town charm has a way of following the people of Marietta everywhere they go.
Van Dyk recalled a trip his wife made to New York City with friends while she was attending Marietta College several years back.
While in New York, she greeted a stranger on the street, and was promptly warned never to say "hello" to anybody because they could follow you home.
That's not an issue in Marietta, Van Dyk said.
"In New York, they refer to it as 'the city.' People here refer to (Marietta) as 'our city,'" Van Dyk said.
Marietta residents Clark and Tammy Kinney were enjoying a walk through downtown Friday evening and said they believe the town is a great place to live.
Clark, 67, was born and raised in the city and said he feels as safe now as he did when he was a child, back in the days when residents left groceries in the car with the windows down and knew they'd still be there when they got back.
"I've lived here all my life and I've never felt unsafe," Clark said.
Tammy, 51, agreed and said residents can enjoy activities that simply wouldn't be possible in a bigger city with a higher crime rate.
"I feel good walking downtown," Tammy said.
As safe as residents feel in the city, there are some areas where you just can't take chances, officials said.
Marietta Board of Education President Greg Gault said he's excited about the decreasing crime numbers for the city, but pledged the district will continue to be focused on school safety.
"I think it's great for the community, but just because those numbers are down we won't take security and safety from the top of our list," Gault said.
Like the school district, Marietta Police don't plan on taking reduced criminal activity for granted.
Instead, they hope to continue the battle and drive the numbers even lower.
"You have to remain proactive. You have to be out looking and you have to be vigilant," Waite said.