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Burglaries on the rise in Lincoln

Sun City says 12 break-ins during past two months
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln Police Department is providing extra patrol around the city in response to an increase in burglaries in Sun City Lincoln Hills, Lincoln Crossing, the west side of Lincoln, and downtown Lincoln. Interim Police Chief Paul Shelgren said 92 burglaries were reported between Jan. 1 and July 31 last year. For the same time period this year, 120 burglaries were reported. In Sun City Lincoln Hills, residents reported 12 burglaries in the past two months. More than half the residents were at home at the time, according to Shelgren. The burglaries taking place throughout the city “appear to be a crime of opportunity” happening during daytime and evening hours, Shelgren said. The suspect takes small items such as cash and jewelry, according to Shelgren, and no one has been hurt. “So far, our saving grace has been that no one was hurt,” Sun City Lincoln Hills Neighborhood Watch Executive Director Larry Wilson said, “but we do have residents who are very fearful.” So far, there is no good physical description of the suspect or suspect, according to Shelgren. The department sent suspect prints to the Department of Justice. Sun City Lincoln Hills Neighborhood Watch alerts coordinator Mary Cramston said residents have described the suspect as someone slim dressed in black. “In the instances where the resident was there, the resident screamed and scared the person off,” Cramston said. Doors or windows are being left slightly open at night, according to Cramston. “We are advising residents who want to leave a door or window open for air to allow no more then 4 inches of space. This includes leaving the garage door open for ventilation.” Neighborhood Watch is sending alerts to Sun City’s 6,783 homes. The Neighborhood Watch has 850 volunteers organized around 594 mail stations. There are three to 20 mail stations in a Sun City village. A captain is assigned to each mail station, which handles mail for 8 to 10 homes. “The captain maintains a roster of everyone on his or her mail station,” Wilson said, “including phone and e-mail contact information. When we have a message and want the community to hear, we go to the village coordinators, then to mail station captains to distribute the alert to each one. I have 11 people on my mail station. I can tell you how to reach each one.” Sun City Lincoln Hills executive director Bob Cook said he supports Neighborhood Watch’s efforts to educate homeowners. “They do a great job,” Cook said. “They (Neighborhood Watch) are a phenomenal group.” The Lincoln Police Department uses community patrol volunteers to check homes while residents are on vacation, according to Shelgren. As of Wednesday, the department will have 38 volunteers. “We get a lot of requests for vacation requests at this time of year,” Shelgren said. “There are a large number coming in. There were five more requests when I came in today (Monday). We are hoping to expand hours to do night time hours along with daytime checks.” Police and Neighborhood Watch offer tips to help residents stay safe By Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger reporter The No. 1 step residents should take to keep a potential burglar away is lock doors and windows, including garages, according to Lincoln Interim Police Chief Paul Shelgren. “Don’t allow any opportunity for a confrontation,” Shelgren said. If someone enters your home and you are there, Shelgren said, lock yourself in a room and dial 9-1-1. Drawing attention to your home is also important. “Animals are good,” Shelgren said. “Motion sensors, sounds systems, lighting helps. Do whatever will make noise or deter someone from trying to get into your home.” In addition to advising residents to leave no more than 4 inches of space for a door or window if air is needed, Sun City Lincoln Hills Neighborhood Watch alerts coordinator Mary Cramston advises residents to use a dowel or piece of PVC pipe to prevent windows from being opened from the outside or use window locks from a hardware store. Cramston’s advice is for residents to be aware of their surroundings and know their neighbors so they will recognize who or what is out of the ordinary. “We are all volunteers,” she said. “The No. 1 rule is to observe and report. If someone appears suspicious, write down the license plate and description of the vehicle.” Sun City Lincoln Hills Executive Director Bob Cook agreed. “Keep your eyes open for unusual things in your neighborhood and report unusual activity to police,” Cook said. “We do recommend that residents call the police department while they are on vacation so police volunteers can do vacation checks,” Cramston said.