(David Sloane/Times Union) Law enforcement officers deal with burglaries and thefts on a regular basis.
On Jan. 29, 18 trailers at Jellystone Campground were burglarized by three men from Converse. One was caught at the scene and two others after a chase into Whitley County.
While incidents like this are uncommon, there were approximately 300 burglaries reported in Kosciusko County in both 2016 and 2017.
Police say with a little diligence, property owners can avoid becoming a victim.
Difference Between Thefts, Burglaries
Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris McKeand said a burglary “is somebody breaking into a business or residence with the intent to steal. With the intent to commit a theft or a felony even.”
Theft is “just depriving somebody of some thing’s value.” He cited someone stealing gas or a ring as an example of a theft. “Theft is pretty general. Theft is usually a component of a burglary though.”
In Indiana, robbery is different than burglary. KCSD Lt. Det. Todd Sautter said, “Some people misinterpret or they say, ‘I got robbed.’ Well, they actually got broke into. There is a difference between a robbery and a burglary.”
Indiana Code says, “A person who knowingly or intentionally takes property from another person or from the presence of another person: (1) by using or threatening the use of force on any person; or (2) by putting any person in fear; commits robbery, a Level 5 felony.”
In the U.S., 1.5 million homes are burglarized every year, and a burglary happens about every 18.2 seconds, Sheriff William “Rocky” Goshert said.
“The thing is, why it’s so advantageous, is because in 10 minutes, a burglar, on average, can steal $2,200 worth of merchandise from you,” he said.
McKeand said that in 2016, burglary reports received through the county dispatch totaled 301. Eleven were found not to be actual burglaries.
Calls on attempted burglaries totaled 66, with 64 of those found to be reportable.
The KCSD investigated 196 of the burglaries in 2016, and 35 of the attempted burglaries. Warsaw Police Department completed 53 burglary calls; Winona Lake, 12; Syracuse, 21; Milford, 8, Pierceton, 1; North Webster, 5; Mentone, 1; Silver Lake, 0; Claypool, 3; and Indiana State Police, 1.
In 2017, burglary reports taken throughout the county were up to 306, with 294 actually reportable. Attempted burglaries totaled 96, with 91 of those reportable.
KCSD investigated 160 of those; Warsaw, 55; Winona Lake, 23; Syracuse, 24; Milford, 9; Pierceton, 4; North Webster, 13; Mentone, 5; Silver Lake, 5; Claypool, 3; and ISP, 1.
Burglaries are heavily tied to drug use.
“We’re estimating probably 70 to 80 percent of everything we do is tied to our drug problem,” McKeand said.
Goshert said, “It all comes into that. I have to have money to buy drugs. If I don’t have a job, that’s my job. Like I said before, in 10 minutes I can have $2,200 worth of merchandise, so now I can go sell that and have some money.”
In 2016 countywide, there were 1,586 thefts reported, which could range from a stolen phone to a car. In 2017, there were 1,715 theft calls to Central Dispatch.
By agency, KCSD handled 560 of the 2016 cases; Warsaw Police, 679; Winona Lake, 46; Syracuse, 132; Pierceton, 17; Milford, 35; North Webster, 66; Mentone, 18; Silver Lake, 21; Claypool, 11; and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources completed 1 theft report.
In 2017, those theft statistics were: KCSD, 602; Warsaw, 773; Winona Lake, 50; Syracuse, 108; Pierceton, 26; Milford, 56; North Webster, 62; Mentone, 18; Silver Lake, 14; Claypool, 5; and IDNR, 1.
Speaking of thefts, McKeand said they are seeing an uptick in auto thefts.
“A lot of the larger cities around us like South Bend have had a rash of auto thefts where people are warming up vehicles and people are hitting those vehicles while they’re running and stealing them. For a long time, we were kind of immune to that, but we’re actually starting to see that happen here, so our public needs to realize it’s not just your house, it’s everything,” McKeand said.
Jellystone: A Criminal Example
At 11 p.m. Jan. 29, the KCSD received a call about possible burglaries in progress at the Jellystone Campground in Pierceton.
One suspect, Kenneth Sanchez, 19, Converse, was still on the property and was taken. The two other suspects fled the scene and led police on a pursuit, which ended in a crash in Whitley County. The two men were not injured in the crash and were taken into custody. The driver of the vehicle that fled was identified as Michael Chapman, 28, Converse. The passenger in the fleeing vehicle was identified as Thomas Ankrom, 29, Converse.
In incidents like the Jellystone burglaries, Sautter said, “Unfortunately, it does happen because it’s isolated. You’ve got a lot of campers and park models and things that aren’t being used during the winter and the park is closed, but they do have security that works there 24/7.”
The campground’s security staff saw the tracks, started checking around and caught one of the guys. Sautter said that’s how they ended up catching all three suspects.
“There were connections to the Warsaw area. I think one of them possibly had family that had a place there at one time. I think that’s how they knew about Jellystone,” Sautter said.
McKeand credited quick reaction by the staff and KCSD in helping solve the case.
Police offered an assortment of ways to lesson the chance of being a victim of burglary.
According to police, 40 percent of burglaries are not forced entry. Goshert said burglars are getting into homes through unlocked doors and windows.
“In the warmer months, when you have windows open, you have a screen that you only have to get through. People forget about that. They don’t lock up their house when they leave,” he said.
Sliding doors are very easily jimmied, he said. A wooden rod in the track between the door and the wall can keep the sliding door from opening.
Window air conditioning units can also be an entry point for burglars. Goshert said the units need to be secured so someone can’t force them up to get into a home.
“Make sure your doors and windows are locked. And check those regularly because kids open doors, kids leave windows open,” Goshert said.
Goshert also emphasized for people not to show off what they own.
“Leaving all your windows open, people can just walk around and they can see what you do have in your house. And it’s also with your trash. If I just bought a big screen TV and I’ve got that big box out there, it’s saying, ‘Oh, they got something in here,’” he said.
Shrubs and bushes should be trimmed back so they don’t hide the burglars inside a home when they do make entry.
Even when a person isn’t home, he said they should make it look like they are. When residents are gone for periods of time, stop newspaper and mail deliveries or have a neighbor pick it up. Leave a vehicle out in the driveway, and lights and a television on.
They also had tips for “snowbirds” – residents who head south for the winter.
In some cases, residents leave in October, don’t return until March and then discover a break-in, making it “next to impossible” to solve.
“That is one of our biggest things here. Our summers are lake-based recreation, and those houses a lot of times aren’t occupied for all 12 months, so during the winter months, people need to take the extra precautions while they’re empty: Have someone checking in on it and having devices … that gives the appearance that someone is there,” McKeand said.
Sautter suggested they should pay someone to plow their driveway and sidewalks to also make it look like they’re home.
Technology can be a big help for homeowners to prevent burglaries. Some phones can control home lights, while others will let homeowners see who is ringing their doorbell, take video or speak to the person at the door, Goshert said.
Sautter said motion-activated lights on the outside of a home is a good idea, especially going up toward the front of the back door. Another good deterrent is alarms from an alarm company.
He also said there are “cottage watchmen” companies that can be hired to check on a home periodically. “That’s not only for the break-ins but also to make sure the pipes aren’t frozen and whatnot, so there’s a lot of things that can benefit from having someone come and check,” he said.