Burglaries, thefts rise

FAIRMONT – Local and county law enforcements have seen increases in thefts and burglaries in the past year.

From breaking and entering, to frauds and counterfeits, there is a noticeable uptick.

“We’ve had 433 instances this year so far,” said Fairmont Police Lt. Del Ellis. “That’s more than one a day, so it’s become a daily occurrence.”

Those 433 instances include frauds, counterfeits, burglaries and even criminal damage to property.

“We’ve included criminal damage to property in there, because a lot of times criminal damage goes along as part of burglaries,” Ellis said. “So the same incident has two parts.”

There also have been 179 thefts from motor vehicles reported.

In rural Martin County, numbers of burglaries and thefts have remained steady with the exception of a theft ring that was broken up last month. Two men and a juvenile face numerous burglary and theft charges for more than a dozen documented thefts of tools and farm machinery.

“We always get the response of they can’t believe it happened to them,” said Capt. Corey Klanderud of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office. “But there are always general things that people can do to protect themselves.”

While some thefts are targeted, meaning the thief knows what item they intend to steal, many are opportunistic.

“You have some that just go down the street and try to find vehicles that are unlocked,” Ellis said.

“If the doors are open, they’re more likely to take something,” Klanderud said. “The first step is securing your belongings.”

Along with locking vehicles and not leaving valuables inside, it’s important to document valuables.

“Traditionally, people don’t record all the information they need,” Klanderud said. “And when thefts occur, they don’t recognize the item is missing until they go to use it and notice it’s gone.”

“Not many people can say right off hand what the serial numbers are for their laptops or cell phones,” added Sheriff Jeff Markquart. “They said, ‘It’s a white iPad.'”

One suggestion is taking photos of valuable items and their serial numbers and keeping them in a digital photo album in case of theft.

Another tip to protecting your home and neighborhood is being aware.

“This time of year, there are a lot of people moving around with the harvest,” Klanderud said. “It can be difficult as people transfer from vehicles to machinery, but you know who drives up and down your road.”

In towns or in rural areas, law enforcement encourages residents to watch and call with anything that seems suspicious.

“If you’re not in a high-traffic area, you get to know the vehicles that are in your area,” Markquart said. “Be cautious of people who come onto your property. People that want to work or sell you something when you didn’t initiate it, it could be a concern. We recently had an arrest when we had people selling, and one of them had a warrant for theft. We’re not saying that’s the case with all people going door to door out there, but be aware.”

There are also simple ways to help deter nighttime burglaries.

“Have lights on at night; keep your hedges trimmed, make sure the house looked ‘lived-in,'” Ellis suggests. “And in neighborhoods, look out for each other, and if you see something you think is suspicious, call. If it’s nothing, that’s not a bad thing, it’s wonderful. But you living in that neighborhood know better what is normal and what isn’t.”