Rise in burglaries prompts new Salt Lake City police community outreach
Many people wouldn't be excited to see two police officers walking up to their front door.
But Julie Shipman was glad to see them.
Detective Andy Leonard had noticed the open garage door at Shipman's residence, potentially leaving her a prime target for burglars prowling the Liberty Wells neighborhood.
So he and Detective Rick Wall stopped to provide a courtesy word of advice.
Leonard and other members of the Salt Lake Police Department's Community Intelligence Unit (CIU) spent Wednesday patrolling the Liberty Wells neighborhood, in central Salt Lake City, reminding residents to make sure they lock their doors and windows, close their garages and secure all the belongings in their yards as part of a new push to decrease the number of burglaries citywide and raise community awareness.
The neighborhood has seen an increase in burglaries in recent weeks, so the CIU was focusing on raising awareness Wednesday as part of a new community outreach effort, Leonard said.
Sgt. Jeff Webb, who runs CIU, said about 25 percent of the city's burglaries each year are due to unsecured homes or property.
Within minutes, Leonard spotted multiple open garage doors. At night, they seem to make it easier for criminals to break into cars parked inside garages by providing extra cover for ne'er-do-wells looking for easy pickings.
"We have criminals out there that are preying on people," Webb said. His goal decrease the number of burglaries citywide by 25 percent, in part by eliminating such tempting targets.
During a recent effort in another city neighborhood that was experiencing a spike in burglaries, Leonard said his unit helped nab two burglars who were casing homes in the middle of the day, looking for open garages or property to steal.
Shipman said she's been the victim of a car break-in known as a car prowl and has heard from her neighbors that others have recently been victims of home or car burglaries.
"We are very appreciative that the police are taking notice," she said. "I think absolutely, [this effort] is the right thing to do."
In some recent cases, burglars have adopted the strategy of walking around with baby strollers, breaking into homes and loading stolen property inside the strollers before walking away, Webb said. In others, neighbors have reported seeing suspicious vehicles or even strange people carrying out televisions, but decided not to say anything until it was too late to help the victims, Webb said.
Gone are the days where people can leave their homes unlocked, their nice bicycles in the front yards or their windows unlocked, said Wall.
"Unfortunately, times have changed," he said. "We need to change our mindset. It's kind of a sad reality that we have to do that."
Webb said people should look out for each other. Be aware of any suspicious activity. Citizens who spot anything that seems strange should always report it to police so an officer can check it out.
To report suspicious activity or a tip, call 801-799-3000 or text the word TIPSLCPD plus information to CRIMES (274637).
Protecting your home from burglars
Windows • Use good window locks. Most criminals won't break windows because of the loud noise it causes.
Doors • Keep your doors locked even when you're home.
House numbers • Make sure house numbers are easily visible to help responders locate your residence.
Exterior lights • Good lighting reduces risk. Consider installing motion detectors or sensors.
Garages • Always keep closed and locked when at home.
Shrubs • If they're overgrown, criminals might use them to hide or cover their activity. Keep trimmed back from doors and windows.