There’s been an uptick in property crime in St. Clair County, and the sheriff’s department wants people to lock their doors.
Lock your car, lock your shed, lock your house. If you value something, and don’t want it to be stolen or broken into, lock it up. In many of the break-ins, car or shed doors weren’t locked, especially in rural areas, said Capt. Bruce Fleshren.
“Criminals are looking for the easy target,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson. “If they pull a door and it opens, they’re going to go in ... Lock your stuff up. Don’t make yourself an easy target.”
Police suspect drug addicts are the ones breaking in to houses and sheds and stealing items such as ATVs, iPads, change, garden tools and cigarettes. It’s not an epidemic of burglaries, but it is definitely a noticeable difference in numbers, Fleshren said. The department usually takes one or two reports a week for thefts or burglaries, and in the past month that number has doubled.
Rural areas were heavily targeted, but the break-ins are occurring everywhere.
The thefts are in random places, at random days and times, which makes it difficult to identify the culprits, Watson said. And with only about six deputies working at a time to cover 700 square miles, it’s impossible to catch everything.
“We have to get the public engaged if we’re going to be able to curtail crime,” Watson said. “We can be proactive and stop criminals, but we need tips from regular citizens.”
If you see something suspicious, or see a car you don’t recognize hanging around your house, get a license plate number or photo and call 911 immediately, Fleshren said. It’s much easier to investigate something when the tip comes in right away. Citizens just need to give police something to work with so they can try to stop the crimes.
Police don’t believe the burglaries across the county are related, but it has been proven that an increase in drug abuse and addiction drives up property crime. The people who never may have stolen before are desperate to get drugs, so they start stealing small items they can sell, Fleshren said.
“A professional burglar doesn’t steal a rake,” Watson said. “A crackhead steals a rake.”
A professional burglar doesn’t steal a rake. A crackhead steals a rake.
Sheriff Rick Watson
No one has been taken into custody so far, Fleshren said. They have leads and persons of interest, but not enough evidence to arrest anyone.
If anyone has seen something, or knows someone who may be involved in the burglaries, you can call the sheriff’s department’s anonymous tipline at 1-800-640-3463.
Tips to keep yourself from being a victim:
- Always lock your doors (cars, sheds, houses)
- Communicate with your neighbors if you see something strange
- Report suspicious activity to police immediately
- If you have a surveillance camera, check the footage occasionally
- Get a motion sensing light — it scares off burglars and lets neighbors know someone is out there
- Don’t leave valuables in your car