As we went around the room at tonight’s EPCPC meeting it seemed like at least half the participants mentioned the ongoing burglary spree in the CD and neighboring areas. Captain McDonagh said that they saw a definite spike in burglaries in June and believe there is a group of kids who are actively involved in some of the cases. So far the events have mainly been focused east of 23rd Ave, south as far as Jackson, and north past Madison.
On the positive side, police say they’ve made a number of arrests and have open warrants on several other suspects. One team in the east precinct had six burglary arrests in just the last couple of weeks. Those cases are working their way through the system, with some suspects still in custody and some out on bail awaiting trial. And one woman from the Coleman neighborhood near I-90 said that she knows of two recent burglary cases where police were able to recover the stolen property.
To deal with the problem, burglary detectives have been out in the affected neighborhoods every day. We can vouch for this as we frequently hear their participation on the scanner. And it’s more than just taking reports and the old “we’ll give you a call if we find anything” routine that I experienced after a break-in several years ago. They’re doing real things like taking fingerprints and even fiber samples in one call we heard earlier this week.
But the main point that police officials wanted to stress tonight is that there are specific concrete steps that residents can take to secure their property and make these crimes less probable. Open windows are a big target, so make sure they’re closed and locked before you leave for the day. And second story windows aren’t safe either, as the thieves have boosted each other high enough to reach them in some cases.
A common pattern in the burglaries is that the perpetrators will throw a rock through a window or try to open a door. If an alarm goes off, they leave. If not, they make their way in and grab anything that’s small and easily placed in a backpack. Although this sounds very basic, make sure you lock your doors and set your alarm if you have one. Some recent victims had gotten complacent and left themselves open to break-ins. And make sure you don’t leave valuable, portable items out in the open. Put your laptop, iPods, and cell phones away and out of view. Never leave wallets, keys, or purses on your counter or by the back door where they can be easily snatched.
And finally, be alert about any unusual activity around your house and your neighbors’ houses. These crimes are starting with identifiable patterns of casing. Kids will stand around in front of houses, watching for signs of activity or waiting for residents to leave. Captain McDonagh stressed that it is not normal behavior for kids to be loitering outside houses that they have no legitimate connection to. If you see anything suspicious like that, call 911. Police will be dispatched and can at least come and talk to the kids and see if they have a good reason to be there or not.