MARSHALL - As the number of burglaries in Marshall has gone up this year, so has the level of public concern.
Close to 100 people attended a community watch meeting Monday night at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. Marshall Police answered questions about the rashes of residential burglaries reported this year, and gave suggestions on how to help report and prevent burglaries.
Several of the people asking questions or giving feedback at the meeting said they had been victims of recent burglaries.
Photo by Deb Gau
Marshall Police Chief Rob Yant speaks to a crowd of about 100 people at the Marshall-Lyon County Library on Monday night during the first of three community watch meetings organized in response to the recent rash of burglaries in Marshall.
The number of burglaries in Marshall has been up significantly this year, Police said. Sgt. Paula Curry of the Marshall Police said there have been 114 residential burglaries reported so far this year. A rash of burglary incidents was reported in April and May, and again in September and October.
"Often summer is a busy time," Curry said.
In addition to home burglaries, vehicle break-ins and thefts have been reported throughout Marshall.
COMMUNITY WATCH MEETINGS
The next two 6:30 p.m. meetings will take place at Holy Redeemer Church today and Grace Life Church on Thursday.
"We believe there are multiple individuals involved," Curry said, so there was no one location, method, time of day or type of target for the burglaries. Some incidents appeared to be done by professionals, while others were likely done by teenagers working in small groups, she said. A number of people who had been convicted for past incidents were also released from jail this year, which Curry said raises the number of possible suspects.
"There's nothing consistent about how they're getting in" to homes, she said. In some incidents, burglars have entered through an unlocked door, while in others doors or windows were pried open or broken. Items stolen have included electronics, cash, jewelry and prescription drugs. More guns have been stolen than there have been in many years, Curry said.
There have been very few cases where a burglar has victimized a Marshall house when the residents are home, but Curry said it has happened.
"In some of these things, they're very brazen," she said. However, she said there have been no assaults reported in connection to a burglary.
In response to audience questions, Jeff Wenker of Marshall Police said Minnesota does not have a "castle law," which allows residents to use deadly force in protecting their homes. Residents are allowed to defend themselves and make a citizen's arrest to bring an intruder to the police. However, police cautioned that there are physical, mental and legal risks to confronting a burglar.
Curry said it may take time to arrest and convict suspects in recent burglaries. For example, some of the burglary cases from this summer had to wait for subpoenas and warrants. In cases where there is physical evidence like fingerprints, it can also take months for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab to analyze it.
Curry said she had tried to get the BCA to expedite the process for Marshall's evidence, but the lab deals with evidence from across the state, and violent crimes usually have top priority.
When a suspect can be identified for multiple burglaries, they still might not be charged with or convicted for them all, depending on the available evidence. Only about 17 percent of all burglaries in Marshall are solved, Curry said. She acknowledged this is frustrating for both victims and law enforcement.
"Nobody wants these guys more than we do," Curry said. She said the Marshall Police Department has been putting in extra shifts and making use of informants to try and catch the perpetrators.
Curry and Marshall Director of Public Safety Rob Yant said it's crucial for Marshall residents to take precautions in their own homes, get to know their neighbors, and report suspicious activity immediately. Yant urged residents to lock doors and windows, not to leave valuables in their cars, and not to advertise when they will be away from home. Using lights or the radio to make a house seem occupied can be a deterrent for burglars. In addition, residents should keep serial numbers and other information identifying their valuables in a safe location.
Yant said the Marshall Police Department is also considering implementing an online map program similar to one used by police in Willmar, which shows the location of recent incidents to help alert the public.
As part of Monday night's meeting, Yant asked local residents to introduce themselves to their neighbors, and to share contact information that would help them form a watch group to keep an eye on each other's homes.
Two more community information meetings will be on Tuesday and Thursday night, from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday's meeting will be held at Carlin Hall on the lower level of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Thursday's meeting will be held at Grace Life Church.
Yant said people interested in organizing groups for their neighborhoods are encouraged to sign up at the meetings. Followup meetings will be held for interested neighborhood groups, he said.