Look out for property crimes
From the thick primeval forests north of Bemidji and Hibbing all the way to the shores of Hudson Bay, Crime Stoppers of Northwest Ontario and Northern Minnesota promote citizens’ awareness of criminal activity in their communities and encourage witnesses to report crimes they see. In an area so vast and often forbidding, police depend on citizens’ assistance with keeping the peace, protecting people’s safety, safeguarding their property, and enforcing the laws. Although crime generally has declined throughout the region, police express grave concern about recent spikes in property crimes.
Property crimes include burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. In northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario, property crimes account for over 90 percent of the “crime index offenses.” The news, however, is not all bad: A Crime Stoppers survey of recent news reports strongly indicates that, when victims promptly report burglaries, law enforcement agents quickly apprehend the suspects. A typical burglary case in Duluth, Minnesota:
Duluth police have arrested a 21-year-old Duluth man in connection with a Saturday-evening burglary in the Endion neighborhood. Police were called to the 1600 block of East Fifth Street at 7:47 p.m. on Saturday with a report of a burglary that had just occurred, a Duluth police news release said. The caller said a man had entered his house with a flashlight and had stolen a snowboard and some electronic equipment while the caller was in bed. Police found the suspect on Tuesday in a relative’s home two houses away from where the burglary occurred. The suspect was taken to St. Louis County Jail, where he is awaiting formal charges of first-degree burglary.
The basics of property crimes
The definitions of the different property crimes overlap, but the law draws critical distinctions among felons’ means of committing their crimes. For example, burglary includes any unlawful entry to any structure for the sake of committing a criminal offence or theft. Contrary to popular belief, the definition of “burglary” does not stress theft; instead, it stresses forcible breaking and entering. A person who breaks into your home commits burglary whether or not he takes anything.
Among property crimes, theft is most common because the definition is most inclusive: In its “Uniform Crime Report 2011” The Minnesota Department of Public Safety summarizes,
“Larceny (theft) includes the unlawful taking of the property of another with intent to deprive him of ownership. This involves all larcenies and thefts resulting from pocket picking, purse snatching, shoplifting, larceny (theft) from auto, larceny (theft) of auto parts and accessories, bicycle theft, larceny (theft) from buildings, and larceny (theft) from any coin operated machines. Any theft that is not a robbery or any theft that does not result from a breaking and entering.”
Although burglary and robbery fall under the general definition of theft, they are distinguished by the perpetrators’ use of force, and authorities count robberies among violent crimes. Some kinds of fraud also fall under theft’s umbrella. According to the Department of Public Safety, in 2011, law enforcement agencies reported more cases of theft than any other kind of crime: Of 146,249 total offenses, 100,636 cases involved theft. Burglaries increased by five percent in 2011, totaling 25,253 cases. Minnesota residents experienced 7,927 motor vehicle thefts and 627 arson incidents.
Ontario categorizes property crimes more or less as Minnesota does, but the the provincial data itemizes more specifics. In 2011, provincial law enforcement agencies investigated 366,240 property crimes, of which 50,719 involved breaking and entering. Thefts over $5,000 totaled 4,677; thefts under $5,000 totaled 174,730. Ontario officials also track malicious mischief, including vandalism and defacing property. In 2011, mischief complaints totaled a staggering 70,316. Of all crimes charged in 2011, juvenile offenders committed approximately 12 percent.
In urban areas, burglars break into, loot and plunder homes approximately every thirty seconds. Often disguised as municipal workers or home repairmen, burglars “go to work” while homeowners go their offices.
The majority of break-ins take place between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. when children are in schools, neighborhoods are quiet and homes are empty.
Naturally, thieves target home electronics, expensive power tools and high-end jewelry, but they also seize opportunities to grab checkbooks, credit and debit cards as they rifle drawers in search of valuables. Crime Stoppers urges stay-at-home mothers, people who work from home, and homeowners’ associations to remain extra vigilant while their neighbors are at work.
In rural areas, vacation homes often remain unoccupied for months at a time; and owners, imagining their remote home sites are safe because they are hundreds of miles away from high-crime areas, frequently take few precautions against theft. Because, however, abuse of prescription drugs knows no boundaries and observes no distinctions among social classes, summer homes provide excellent targets-of-opportunity for needy addicts. Moreover, because recreational gear and sporting equipment are easy to sell at handsome prices, thieves look for those items as eagerly as they seek cash and jewelry. Crime Stoppers strongly encourage year-round residents of popular vacation areas to look out for strangers, self-described “off-season tourists.”
Because all metal prices have soared, and especially because copper prices now rival prices for silver and other semi-precious metals, construction and remodeling sites have become thieves’ prime targets. Under cover of darkness, they raid unguarded sites, grabbing unused wire and copper piping that they sometimes can return to home improvement stores for their full retail prices. The most ambitious, skilled worksite thieves strip wire and pipes right out of the walls, taking the materials to recycling centers where they get top dollar for their so-called “scrap.”
Capitalize on Crime Stoppers resources.
The organization provides a 24-hour hotline manned by well-trained personnel who collect, process, and pass-on information to police. All calls are strictly confidential. Crime Stoppers assures tipsters’ anonymity, identifying callers by code numbers instead of collecting any kind of personal information; they do not trace or record calls.
Drug abuse and trafficking contribute to significant increases in breaking-and-entering, burglary, robbery, theft, trespassing and poaching. Addicts using heroin and oxycontin often spend as much as $250 a day to feed their habits, and they frequently beg, borrow, and steal to get the ready-cash they need. Therefore, Crime Stoppers urges citizens to look out for strangers and suspicious activities in their neighborhoods.
Crime Stoppers provides northern Minnesota and northwest Ontario citizens with safe, effective tools for reporting crimes they have witnessed or of which they have knowledge. The Crime Stoppers partnership often offers rewards for information leading to arrest and conviction of dangerous criminals or for recovery of stolen property. When you see illegal or suspicious activity in your neighborhood, call Crime Stoppers right away.