PORTLAND -- A summer spike in petty crimes has been hitting a Northwest Portland fire station particularly hard.

The firefighters been seeing their personal cars broken into, people using the station property as a toilet and even people trying to break into the fire house at 17th and Johnson.

According to Portland police crime stats, since March there have been about 250 car break-ins within a half mile of the fire station. That's almost double what it was this time last year.

And that's not all.

We've had people try and climb through open windows and theft of items off the apparatus floor, people getting into the back alley said Portland Fire Lt. Tom Walsh, who added he could go on and on.

He says the problems have been escalating recently. After several months of car break-ins, in just the last week, two of his co-workers personal cars were busted open.

One firefighter had $800 worth of band equipment stolen out of his car during broad daylight last week. The other thefts were simply for loose change.

Then Tuesday night, a would-be burglar broke a window across the street at parts distributor Sam Mesher Tool Company. The security alarm started blasting and the firefighters ran over to check it out and kept the suspect there until police came and arrested him. Nothing was stolen.

Manager Eric Bailey is happy to have firefighters right across the street, but disappointed they've also become a target.

It's a real tragedy when it's happening to them, Bailey said. We feel bad for them, they've come over and talked to us many times and they've been a customer of ours. We really appreciate everything they do for us, they're the world's best security system for us.

The firefighters have become very careful now about taking valuables out of their cars, and say the department is getting better security.

We're gone from the station quite a bit of the time during the day, so you have an expectation of security around the station and an expectation of more respect for your property, but that's not the case, said Lt. Walsh.

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