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Burglaries in your neighborhood: Share your stories and strategies

CORBIS/Monalyn Gracia

I live in Minneapolis' Standish neighborhood. I'm in the third precinct, where burglaries in 2010 were up nearly 33 percent in 2010 (this after a decline in 2009).

Our neighborhood E-Democracy.org listserv is buzzing with posts by furious and fearful homeowners. At a neighborhood meeting with precinct crime prevention specialists this week, residents told their stories of break-ins and attempted break-ins.

Conventional and unconventional security tips were shared. There was the man who installed a door that swings out, not in, making it very difficult for strong-footed burglar-types to kick their way in.  There was the woman who left her blinds up just enough to show dirty dishes and an open newspaper on a table — signs of life (and occupancy) for window peepers with burglaring ambitions.


Others told of failed strategies: dog toys in the backyard and alarm systems so complicated to use that the victim stopped using them altogether.

Then there was the big picture discussion: How do we protect our neighborhoods without becoming a community of narrowed eyes peeking through curtains and reporting every unfamiliar face to the police?

Maybe your community hasn’t seen an increase in burglaries like mine has. Citywide Minneapolis was up by just under 2 percent. Still, there were more than 4,500 burglaries in the city in 2010.

Do you have a story or a strategy to share? If you experienced a recent break-in, what surprised you most? What did you lose? How was your experience with the police? Was there a suspect? An arrest? A charge?

If you're in law enforcement, I want to hear from you too. What mistakes are homeowners making? What mistakes are burglars making? What community responses have been most effective?

It doesn't matter what part of the state you're in, but let me know where you live when you chime in. Don't be a stranger.

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Comments (7)

I found that our burglaries dropped 100% after we got a dog.

But then there are the stories of dogs ordered to stop barking in the middle of the night and owners discovering in the morning what the barking was about.

And what about that savvy burglar with the pocket full of dog treats? Is that urban lore?

Any dog owners out there experience a break-in?

There are a few things people can do to help fight burglary:

1. Lock your doors and make your homes more secure. An amazing percentage of burglaries are to unlocked garages and even unlocked houses. In summer months, if your windows are open for ventilation, make sure you pin the windows so they can't open more than six inches. In Minneapolis, SAFE staff will do a home security assessment for you without charge and make recommendations as to what steps you can take to "target-harden" your house.

2. Record serial numbers of valuables. We can do a far better job of recovering stolen property--and arresting thieves when we have the serial numbers of stolen items. Pawn shops won't take items where the serial number is removed. We routinely search serial numbers in pawn shops. We also routinely do search warrants wehre we find numerous valuable electronic items, but without serial numbers we can't prove they are stolen.

3. Contact your legislator. Let them know that property crimes are serious and that sentencing guidleines should be higher for property criminals. Property criminals have the highest recidivism rates and the shortest sentences.

Hope that helps.

I second the "common sense" tips above: when we first moved to Standish 3 years ago, we lost our bikes to thieves who went into our open garage.... this was while I was home, gardening around the corner. I quickly learned that we can't step away from an open door of any kind, even for a minute or two. Being home is not necessarily a deterrent, one neighbor wrote about a break-in that was attempted while she was home.

But I do encourage people to participate in the online forums of your neighbor, if they exist. In Standish, (thanks to Steve Clift and e-democracy), we have been able to share strategies and warn others when something has happened. We also share tips and recommendations, as well as social opportunities and meetings in our neighborhood.

We live in the Minnehaha neighborhood and experienced a breakin around 2:00 a.m. on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The intruder made their way upstairs where all the bedrooms are and this is when our dog (a normally friendly golden retriever!) made us aware that someone was in our house that didn't belong there. To make a long story short - nothing was taken - but the intruder did shine a flashlight in my husband's face and yelled "Police, Police, Police" to give him more time to escape.

Our backdoor was locked but was kicked in with force....it was unsettling to say the least as it was clear that someone was home but they were still confident enough to go upstairs. The 2 officers that came to our house were wonderful...professional, courteous and competent.

There has been a big increase in burglaries in the NENA neighborhood and there will be a NENA neighborhood meeting next Monday, 6:30 - 7:30 at Keewaydin Neighborhood Center where we will continue as a neighborhood to watch out for each other.

Perhaps if more homeowners guns for self protection the burglaries would not be as frequent.

Guns are the biggest target for burglars:
Easily stolen, even more easily sold.

Plus, the burglar is likely to be armed - and he's been up for awhile, is fully awake, and is already completely juiced on adrenaline and whatever else he's got in his system.

Meanwhile, you're fumbling around for a gun that he wants and you can't find - and are not ready to use even if you can find it.

Having a gun in the house turns the occasional suicidal or otherwise stupid impulse into an actual fatality or serious injury. Also, note how many suicide attempts are only partially successful, resulting in permanent brain injury.

Then there's the whole issue of kids, grandkids, or others finding the gun wherever you've hidden it and "just messing around..."

Long story short, don't bother with a gun unless you're ready to actually learn how to use it, and to practice with it on a regular basis - spending money on the ammo, the range, and the ongoing training.