Number of burglaries spikes to 220 in 2015

Published 10:30 am Thursday, January 14, 2016

The number of burglaries in Austin spiked to 220 last year, but police don’t have an easy explanation for the increase.

After 159 burglaries in 2014, 2015 saw about 60 more burglaries than the average of 157 from 2010 to 2014 — an increase of about 40 percent, according to the Austin Police Department’s 2014 annual report.

“I don’t know if we necessarily have an explanation for it,” Police Captain Dave McKichan said.

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Usually the department looks at the economics of the Austin area to see if anything has changed, but southeast Minnesota and Austin have had stability in unemployment numbers, so that’s not the driving force.burglaries

However, Austin tends to trend higher in the number of burglaries than other cities in Minnesota.

The weather can also have a factor in an increase or decrease of burglaries, McKichan said. When the weather is warmer, the department is busier because the days are longer and people are out and about for a longer period of time.

“People have their windows open at night and they’re a lot more likely to hear the sound of breaking glass or be bothered by a loud noise and call us,” McKichan said.

Winter is usually more slow, as colder temperatures keep people hunkered down inside and closed windows keep a lot of “crimes of opportunity” from happening, he added.

Burglaries are different from robberies, McKichan noted. Burglaries often don’t include forced entires, while robberies are a theft that include force or a threat.

“Burglary does not always mean forced entry,” McKichan said. “It can be from an unlocked shed, vehicle, house, window.”

What can citizens do to deter burglars?

“Locking your doors is number one,” McKichan said. “Be it thefts from homes, from cars, it’s much rarer for us to see a forced entry burglary or a broken window burglary than to see the door was unlocked, the window was unlocked, the car was unlocked.”

Remembering to lock your doors when you’re not home and even locking your doors at night when you are home can go a long way in preventing a burglary, McKichan said.

The department also relies on community involvement to help them. They have had good success when citizens promptly report incidents because it allows the department to start investigating things as they happen or shortly thereafter, which improves their ability to successfully solve or prosecute a case, McKichan said.

“We’ve done some news briefs early in the year, just letting people know, advising them, that things are out there,” McKichan said. “Sometimes getting the word out on a specific topic actually gets more people reporting things to us. They’re aware of it.”

Other ways to prevent burglaries include improving lighting around a home, being wary of travel plans posted to social media, having a trusted friend or neighbor to watch your home during long trips, educating children about what they share with friends and calling the police when something doesn’t seem right.

“If you’ve got a neighbor who’s not there and all of a sudden you see a bunch of tracks going to the backyard, if you want to call us and have us take a look at that, absolutely,” McKichan said. “We’d much rather know when something’s going on when you see it versus a week or two later when a neighbor comes back.”

McKichan stressed citizen reporting because it gives them a greater sense of what’s really going on, especially if a certain thing is being sought by a burglar.

“It lets us put extra patrol in a particular area and that type of information is important to us to better understand what’s really going on in the community,” McKichan said.