Burglary rates for 2012 are up, while motor vehicle thefts and entering auto crimes are down in LaGrange, according to the LaGrange Police Department.
Though motor vehicle thefts are down from 88 in 2011 to 74 in 2012, and entering an auto reports are down from 244 in 2011 to 233 in 2012, they are still crimes that could be avoided most of the time, Detective Chris Pritchett said.
“For entering an auto last year, I saw a lot of unlocked doors,” said Pritchett. “And people left computers, wallets and cellphones in their car.”
Pritchett said in the cases of motor vehicle theft and entering an auto, roughly 90 percent of them had left their doors unlocked. Recently, the LPD’s ‘Gotcha Program’ has has helped decrease entering an auto and car thefts. With this program officers put notes on cars of those who they see that leave their doors unlocked, windows down, keys in cars or leave valuables in sight in their car. The note is not a ticket or citation, but a reminder to the driver that they could have been a victim of a theft. On average, he said that 30 “Gotcha” notes are given out a day.
It is less likely for a suspect to enter a car, if they do not see anything in the car.
“If they don’t see anything they won’t take anything,” said Pritchett.
He also said that he noticed a trend of cars from the early 90s to late 90s being stolen. This is probably because suspects can find a way to break the steering column, which is harder to do in newer model cars according to Pritchett.
Burglaries are slightly up from 450 reported cases in 2011 to 464 in 2012.
The trending area for burglaries last year was the Ragland Street area, and Pritchett said that they are beginning to pick up in the area again this year.
The clearance rate for burglaries is 11.42 percent, but is beginning to increase due to intelligence led policing and crime analysis. This allows officers to determine what day and time of day and where the crimes will occur. It also helps detectives to determine if the burglaries are related to other burglaries, what items will be taken and where the suspect will hit next.
“I’ve been happy with the way we’re taking intelligence,” said Pritchett.
The most common stolen item from homes are TVs. Some burglars have what he refers to as “ammo,” in which they steal the same kind of items in each burglary. He recalled that one burglar that was arrested would only steal TVs that were 32 inches or smaller because it was all that he could carry on foot. However, about half of burglaries involve a car, allowing larger and more merchandise to be stolen.
He noticed that most burglaries and thefts are committed during the day, when people are believed to be at work, and it is easy for burglars to target houses if they can spot merchandise within the house.
“I encourage people to close all their blinds and windows,” said Pritchett. “A lot of offenders look through windows.”
There has been occasional instances when witnesses have seen something suspicious, but fail to report it. If reported, they could help stop crimes in progress.
Pritchett recalled that a witness to a burglary had reported to an officer that she had seen a man walking down the street with a TV.
“Folks are so afraid of calling the police because they’re afraid of being in a courtroom and being involved,” said Pritchett. “Folks that see things like this need to call.”
Witnesses can remain anonymous and do not have to have any further involvement besides calling 911 immediately, he said.
“We can’t see it all, we need citizens to be the eyes,” Pritchett said.
He said recovering stolen merchandise is the most difficult part of clearing burglaries. Many times burglars will sell stolen items to people and it is hard to track the item down. People who purchase stolen items can be charged with theft as well, if the merchandise is not turned over to law enforcement.
“If people have purchased stolen merchandise, they can be charged,” said Pritchett. “It is encouraged to turn them in if suspected.”