Daytime burglaries up sharply in rural areas

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department is warning county residents that daytime burglaries have been increasing significantly.

The sheriff’s department investigated 50 burglaries, most of them daytime incidents, from May 1 to June 28. That’s compared to 24 during the same time period last year, said Capt. Chris Roberts, commander of the sheriff’s department detective bureau.

The daytime burglaries are somewhat concentrated in the southwest part of Bartholomew County, Roberts said. Thieves are targeting guns, electronics and tools, he said.

However, in one burglary, thieves found $18,000 in cash. In another, several televisions were taken, Roberts said.

Roberts said it’s somewhat unusual to have daytime burglaries rather than break-ins at night, but perpetrators are taking advantage of the rural locations and determining when people come and go for work.

Detectives said they believe the burglars are targeting specific homes and will first walk to the front door and knock, Roberts said. If no one answers, they will go to the back door and knock. If no one answers, the common practice has been to kick the door in, he said.

If someone answers the door, detectives believe the thieves are using an excuse of a broken-down car and will ask to use a phone, Roberts said.

There haven’t been any instances in which the person attempted to rob or hurt individuals who answer the door, he said.

So far, detectives have been able to return some merchandise to owners by finding it in pawn shops in Indianapolis and Louisville, Roberts said. Detectives also check local pawn shops for items that have been stolen.

In many of the burglaries, however, homeowners have not written down or photographed the serial numbers on their guns, electronics or tools, making it difficult for detectives to identify the property.

Roberts said it can be as easy as using your camera phone to photograph the serial numbers and file them for safekeeping. The serial numbers are used to track items at pawn shops and will increase the chances of finding the item if it is pawned, he said.

The sheriff’s department is also asking for the public’s help in notifying deputies if neighbors notice vehicles that aren’t familiar at someone’s home, or if people are near houses in the daytime when it’s known that the owners are at work.

“We just need neighbors to call us if they see anything suspicious,” he said. “We don’t know which cars are meant to be in a certain location, but most neighbors know. If someone sees a car rolling slowly down the road appearing to look at houses, call it in,” he said.

Some rural Bartholomew County residents are taking precautions.

Roberts said the houses that have been burglarized have been locked and more residents are using video surveillance systems, which help police identify suspects.

Detectives are also asking residents to not enter their home if they find a door broken open, but calling 911 to obtain help immediately.

Roberts said sheriff’s deputies will check the house and need to collect evidence where the burglars entered and left the home, including DNA evidence, fingerprints and footprints. If a resident enters the home and begins moving items and touching doorknobs, the evidence is disturbed, he said.

Columbus police are not seeing a similar increase in residential burglaries so far this year, but have seen an increase in another area.

“Our uptick is in thefts from vehicles,” said officer Justin Black, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

So far this year, 81 cases of cars being broken into have been reported to Columbus police, compared to 39 last year, he said.

A check of the cases showed that many of the cars that have had items stolen were unlocked when the thefts occurred, Black said.

“It’s a crime of opportunity,” Black said. “Someone is just going down a street flipping door handles to find one that opens.”

Residents appear to be becoming a little more vigilant about locking their cars, but Black also reminded car owners to keep anything of value stored in your car out of sight, and double check that the vehicle is locked.

Where to report suspicious activity

Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies and Columbus police ask that if you see suspicious activity, such as someone cruising slowing down a street or road as though houses are being checked, or someone peering into car windows or attempting to open car doors, call 911 to have the situation checked.

Tips to keep your home and car safe

  • Lock your house and lock your car every time you leave.
  • Don’t post on social media or share widely that you will be away or are away from home on vacation.
  • Put all valuable belongings stored in your car out of sight.
  • Watch out for your neighbors’ property — and ask your neighbors to keep an eye on yours. If you see something out of the ordinary or something suspicious, report it to police to be checked out.
  • Make sure you have serial numbers for all electronics, guns and tools, so that police can track them if the items are taken to a pawn shop. Take a picture of the serial number and store it on your phone if you don’t have time to write it down.
  • If you arrive home and find your home broken into, do not enter the home — call 911 and ask for police to check the house.

Soource: Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Columbus Police Department

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.