Alarming Rise In Residential Burglaries

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Residential burglaries. Graphic courtesy APD

Residential burglaries went up drastically in October, and have continued to occur at an alarming rate. Graphic courtesy APD

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – There are people who wake up every day planning on going around and stealing whatever they can – from homes, cars and businesses. And every day, they follow through with the thefts.

“Absolutely,” confirmed APD Lt. Todd Dokweiler, “And there’s a significant number of them.”

Last October, residential burglaries surged from something under 10 per month to nearly one per day. And those are just the ones that were reported.

“We really don’t have a reason,” Dokweiler said. He noted that the underlying motivation – often heroin or methamphetamine addiction – is quite common.

There are a few contributing factors. First, one or two hyperactive burglars on a tear can easily account for a statistical bump in ripoffs. “That said,” Dockweiler noted,  “the kind of increases you see are significant.”

Second, the state’s budget realignment has forced the county to prioritize violent crime. Suspects arrested for burglaries are booked into, then released from the Humboldt County Correctionl Facility the same day.

“They go in on the Fourth Street side in the morning and come out on the Fifth Street side that afternoon,” Dokweiler said. “When they’re released, they’re still addicted to heroin.”

Burglary suspects are often found to be carrying heroin or meth, and  “at the very least will have the paraphernalia,” Dokweiler said. “When we speak to them, that’s what they tell us.

Despite the budget-caused revolving-door, police continue to pursue and apprehend suspects. Dokweiler said APD arrested a number of burglary suspects in January, most commonly through resale of stolen proceeds.

“They may not pawn them themselves; they trade them for dope or whatever,” Dokweiler said. The pawn shops will notify APD of potentially stolen merchandise and provide police with the customers’ names. The customers often readily disclose the identity of the person from whom they received the stolen property.

Dokweiler would like Arcata residents to communicate with police and each other as well as the pawn shop operators do.

“A lot of people don’t report burglaries,” he said. But when they do, or even when they just report an odd person or vehicle in a neighborhood, it can help put a case together. he recounted an incident where a citizen noticed a suspicious vehicle and reported it. The same vehicle had been seen leaving the scene of a previous burglary, helping identify a suspect.

“All these pieces help us connect the big picture,” Dokweiler said. “When people see something suspicious, reporting that to the police may give us that missing piece of information we’re looking for. It may not seem big, but it may be what puts it all together for us.”

He said APD’s Crime Tip Line, (707) 825-2588, is yielding useful information.

So are the four, going on five Neighborhood Watch groups that have been established in Arcata ’hoods. These help get residents to know each other, become aware of crime trends and better communicate suspicious activity to police.

“They’re effective,” Dokweiler said. “We’ve seen good information coming to us.”

Those interested in establishing a Neighborhood Watch group may contact Dokweiler or APD Volunteer Ginger Campbell at (707) 822-2428.

Meanwhile, residents can take basic measures to avoid becoming a victim. One is to simply lock their home and vehicle doors. “The majority of burglaries that we see are because of an unlocked door,” Dokweiler said. “They’re [burglars] going around and trying doors. And people in the neighborhoods are seeing them.”

Commercial burglaries

Commercial burglaries haven’t seen the same drastic increase. APD Graphic