LINO LAKES, Minn. - Police Chief John Swenson is concerned about a kind of "open door" policy in Lino Lakes' residential garages. The unsecured homes are an invitation to theft and burglary.
Swenson said in 2011, there were more than 1,100 unlocked home doors, both vehicle doors and garage doors in the northern Twin Cities suburb. Swenson noted that proactive efforts by his police force reduced burglaries in the city by 52% over the same time period.
"Lots of times, what they will do," said Swenson, "is they will come up and 'shop', if you will, in the suburbs for opportunities for theft, be it an open garage door or an open unlocked vehicle."
Lino Lakes officers arrested two men in the past week for burglaries in the city. The men are 30 and 31 years old, from Saint Paul and White Bear Lake. Swenson said in one of the burglaries, the thief had to flee early.
"There was a garage door left open and the suspect had entered the garage and someone had come home and interrupted the burglary," said Swenson. "As a result of that, we had some information on suspect vehicles and through the course of that investigation and looking into that, there was a subsequent burglary in the same neighborhood and we determined it was the same gentleman that committed both burglaries."
Both men face felony charges of Burglary in the 1st Degree in Anoka County Court. Bail for one was set at $100,000. Bail for the other was pending at this writing.
Lino Lakes Police Captain Kelly McCarthy allowed KARE 11 to ride along on a routine patrol on Thursday. She drove into an area that had been targeted recently by burglars, including the arrestees in the past few days.
"Through suspect interviews we were able to ascertain that they actually came out and scoped the area before they hit those two residences," she said.
In a matter of minutes, McCarthy spotted two homes with open garage doors. She checked the residences and found no one at home in either house. Lino Lakes police policy is to close the garage door if they can. In that case, McCarthy was not able to find controls to do that. She simply left a note on the vehicle in the driveway.
"If we were bad guys in this area, what we would be looking for, that garage door with that vehicle, that would be a nice target," said McCarthy. "Certainly bikes and furniture. It would all be a pretty good score for just one house."
McCarthy pointed out that often the door from the garage into the home is not locked either, giving a thief access to the entire house. Lino Lakes Police urge all Minnesotans to be sure their homes and vehicles are locked and secure before leaving the house.
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