by Dennis Dalman
Someday, hopefully, the self-reminder to “Lock It Up!” will be as internalized as “Buckle Up!”
Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes and his staff would be happy if that becomes the norm.
Sartell’s small-town ambience has a draw-back – burglars.
Many of them are attracted to non-metro, neighborly cities because they know more people there feel safer and thus tend to be trusting, often leaving their homes or garage doors unlocked, even at night.
Hughes is convinced small-town openness and trust is a big reason for a current burglary-and-theft spree in the city. In 2014, Sartell reported 25 burglary incidents. So far in 2015, there have already been 24 incidents. Fortunately, none of those incidents involved physical assaults.
Hughes noted burglars are opportunists who take the path of least resistance via unlocked places – mainly vehicles and houses. They don’t have to pick locks, smash windows or slice screens. All they have to do is quietly open doors and take whatever they want.
So far this year, the Sartell police arrested two burglars, one involved in thefts from a house, another for a series of thefts from unlocked cars at an apartment building.
Some burglars are out-and-out bold and brazen. In one case about a month ago, a burglar found an unlocked car in a driveway. He entered the car, found the garage-door opener, opened the garage door, went into the garage where he found the unlocked door into the house. Once in the house, he proceeded to steal items that were laying in plain sight.
To avoid being burglarized, Hughes wants residents to remember the following tips:
- First and foremost, do at least two things: Lock all doors (vehicles and houses) and invest in motion-detector lights for the front and back of residences. Some people have told Hughes they don’t want motion-detector lights because, they say, cats or dogs can set them off. But, in fact, lights have become more high-tech in recent years and will be set off pretty much only by two-legged animals – namely thieves or somebody else up to no good. A good reason to have such lights is because thieves and other trouble-makers thrive in darkness. They are generally as skittish about light as bats are.
- If you see something, report it immediately. Many people, Hughes noted, will see in the morning their car has been rifled through, but since they don’t notice anything missing, they don’t report it. That’s a mistake, Hughes said, because reports to the police will tip them off to do extra patrol in certain neighborhoods or areas within neighborhoods. And such reports will often clue police in as to who or what kind of suspicious vehicle to keep an eye out for. Another good reason to report is so the police can track patterns of thefts and burglaries. That tip is also true if someone comes home and notices a window broken or a screen sliced.
- If a resident sees someone in their vehicle or house, they should tell the person to leave. Then the resident should leave the house, preferably with a cell phone in hand, and dial 911 immediately or go to a neighbor’s house to report the intrusion.
- Always be vigilant. Know one’s environment and any changes in it. For example, if a neighbor’s dog starts barking at an unusual hour, check out the situation, at least by visual inspection from a window, if possible. Then call 911 if something seems amiss. Get into the habit of watching out for neighbors, especially if they happen to be gone for extended periods. Consider forming or joining a “Neighborhood Watch” program.
- Don’t keep valuables out in the open, either in one’s vehicle or one’s house. Most run-of-the-mill thieves don’t like to take the time to rifle through drawers or boxes, looking for takeables. If they don’t see prized items right in front of their eyes, chances are they’ll leave and look for easier criminal opportunities elsewhere.
- Last, not least, never feel hesitant to call the police or sheriff’s department.
“That’s our job,” Hughes said. “Calling us is not bothering us. If you keep it to yourself, we’re not going to know.”