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Editorial - Let's stop burglars in their tracks

Don't let the burglars win.

Everyone in the area should be more vigilant about spotting and reporting suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods. Residents can also do more to decrease their odds of becoming a burglary victim.

Last Friday, the Alexandria Police Department issued an alert in connection with several burglaries it's been investigating. Last Thursday, officers responded to four separate burglary reports with extensive criminal damage to property in the neighborhood of Darling Drive Northwest. These crimes followed a residential burglary on the north end of the Scenic Heights neighborhood. In this instance, the thieves targeted an unoccupied house that was currently under construction.

These weren't just quick snatch-and-grab cases. The thieves were destructive. They ripped and cut up furniture; threw things off the walls; opened up beverages and spilled stuff throughout the homes; and took pleasure out of kicking in sheetrock.

This kind of crime isn't "kids being kids" or something to be pooh-poohed. It's destructive, violent behavior that leaves the victims feeling even more violated than having a few items stolen from them.

The burglars targeted homes that looked like an easy mark - the driveways and sidewalks were still clogged with snow from last week's storm, indicating that no one was home. It's scary to contemplate what may have happened if someone would have been there when the thieves broke in.

Burglaries are a problem the community needs to deal with. A couple of months ago, the newspaper did a story on the fact that more than 20 burglaries were reported in October and November in Douglas County and Alexandria combined. And then there was the chilling case reported on February 1 when an 85-year-old Alexandria man was robbed at gunpoint at his home on Latoka Drive Southwest.

What can residents do? Most importantly, nobody should be cringing in fear worrying that they might be targeted next. Instead, people should heed the advice of the police: Stay vigilant. Look out for your neighbors. Keep your doors and windows locked. Remove snow from your sidewalks and driveways or hire someone to do it so your house doesn't look unoccupied.

Other tips from the Alexandria Police Department:

Never open your door automatically. Install and use a peephole.

Lock your doors and windows.

Vary your daily routine.

Use "Neighbor Watch" to keep an eye on your neighborhood.

Don't leave notes on your door stating that you are going to be gone.

Leave lights on when going out at night; use a timer to turn lights on and off when you are away for an extended period.

Notify neighbors and the police when going away on a trip.

When you are away, remember to cancel deliveries such as newspapers and arrange for someone - a neighbor's child, perhaps - to shovel the driveway (or in the summer, mow the lawn) if need be. Arrange for your mail to be held by the post office or ask a neighbor to collect it for you.

Be wary of unsolicited offers to make repairs to your home. Deal only with reputable businesses.

Keep an inventory with serial numbers and photographs of re-salable appliances, antiques and furniture. Leave copies in a safe place.

Install deadbolt locks on all your doors.

Keep your home well lit at night, inside and out; keep curtains closed.

Ask for proper identification from delivery persons or strangers.

If a stranger asks to use your telephone, offer to place the call for him or her yourself.

Never let a stranger into your home.

Do not hide your keys under the mat or in other conspicuous places.

Never give out information over the phone indicating you are alone or that you won't be home at a certain time.

If you arrive at home and suspect a stranger may be inside, don't go in. Leave quietly and call 911 to report the crime.

Lastly, don't hesitate to report crime or suspicious activities. If you have any information about the latest string of burglaries or other crimes, contact the Alexandria Police Department at (320) 763-6631.