by Dennis Dalman
Sometimes, Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes and his staff feel they are about to lose their voices from saying it over and over and over again: “Please lock up your vehicles!”
In just two months, there have been more than 50 thefts from unlocked vehicles and from garages left open overnight in Sartell.
The thefts have occurred in virtually every area of the city.
Recently, Hughes asked a group of senior citizens to heed that advice and to share it with others: “Lock your vehicles.”
The thieves are more than likely roving groups of younger people, Hughes said, based on the kinds of items they steal. Thefts from cars are often referred to by the perpetrators as “car shopping,” he noted. If the thieves find a vehicle locked, they just go on to the next and the next. What they steal is usually any cash or change in the vehicle or electronic equipment. They also rummage through garages and take anything they can use or sell. Fishing boats left out overnight are also a prime target of thieves.
This kind of thievery is very frustrating for Hughes, his officers and the dispatcher. For one thing, the thefts are happening so frequently it takes a lot of time to take reports and do the paperwork – not that officers mind being busy, but such avoidable thefts take time away from other officer duties. One day last week, there were 12 thefts from vehicles reported in just one day. And there were probably more, but some people do not report such crimes.
When people do report thefts from vehicles, they often notice the thefts at night but wait until the morning to report them. Hughes said it is vital to report thefts immediately so officers have more of a chance of catching the culprits in the act elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Hughes has put his “lock-up” advisories on the city website, the police department Facebook and has sent letters to residents, as well as through the media. But despite such advisories, some residents just do not comply.
Hughes also recommends putting serial numbers on electronic equipment so the items can be returned to owners if found in possession of the thieves or someone else to whom the items were illegally sold.
Parents, he said, should check to see if their children have unaccounted-for items stored somewhere in the house. They should also check to see if their children are home at night. Those doing the thefts are apparently unsupervised, and some might be “sneaking out” of their homes after dark without their parents’ knowledge.
Hughes thinks one reason people don’t lock up is because they think thieves will smash the vehicle windows in search of items to steal. But, in almost all cases, culprits do not smash windows because of the difficulty or because of the noise it would make. It is easier, Hughes said, to move from one vehicle to the next until they find an unlocked one.
Hughes and his staff are hoping all residents will heed the advice: “Don’t make it easy for thieves; lock up your vehicles and close and lock garages overnight.”