Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Are burglaries, break-ins on the rise?
Town police chiefs not so sure, but departments are working together more closely

by Steve Targo

November 15, 2012

One of the statements on the Town of Geneva Police Department's new website is that the typical burglars are "nonprofessional," adults or even teenagers looking for crimes of opportunity.

If that's true, then perhaps the string of burglaries over the last month suggests the opportunities have increased exponentially. There have been numerous residential break-ins in the towns of Geneva and Linn, as well as elsewhere throughout Walworth County.

Now, the police departments in the towns of Geneva and Linn are communicating more, sharing information in an attempt to solve these crimes. In fact, Geneva Police Chief Steve Hurley and Linn Police Chief Mark Cates said they're also working with other police departments, including those in Fontana and Walworth, as well as the Walworth County Sheriff's Department.

But during separate phone interviews last week, Hurley and Cates said there doesn't appear to be a specific increase of burglaries in their communities, nor is there cause for panic.

"They're not situations that the public should worry about," Hurley said Nov. 9 about the Geneva incidents. "They're isolated incidents."

On Nov. 8, Cates said he believes despite the recent string of burglaries — including, most recently, the one at 332 Fellows in Genoa City — he doesn't think the number of these type of crimes have increased in Linn.

"But we've had our fair share of break-ins," Cates said.

Recently, in Linn, there were two similar incidents on the same night.

Someone threw a lawn ornament through the kitchen window of a home at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 1 on Hardwood Drive. At about 2 a.m., someone smashed the front window at Shifter's Bar and Food, W3230 S. Lakeshore Drive.

Geneva has had incidents since August, when a home invasion occurred on Snake Road (see story Page 7B).

A few times during the Nov. 9 interview, Hurley said there's no reason for the public to panic.

"Generally, when you have a home invasion, often times it's someone who's looking for something in particular and the person (in the home) has something they want," Hurley said.

A number of thefts and burglaries occurred recently, including a break-in Oct. 19 at In The Drink, W3860 Lakeshore Drive.

Most recently, a forced burglary was reported Nov. 7 at 7 a.m. at a South Shore Drive residence.

Hurley said he can't discuss the details surrounding those investigations yet.

He added he realizes it's difficult to soothe people without telling them why.

However, both town police chiefs provided some tips on what residential and commercial property owners can do to help avoid a break-in or burglary.

Taking it to the web

Recently, the Geneva police department debuted a website paid for by a grant from the Department of Justice.

The website also has a section on burglary prevention and home security.

"We put a PowerPoint presentation on it a few weeks ago (about burglary prevention)," Hurley said. "This is very comprehensive — everything that you can do (to prevent) burglaries, what to do during the holiday season, what to do when you're shopping and you have gifts in car. Those are just some examples."

Some of the tips on the site include avoid placing your family's name on doors and mailboxes, turning boxes for electronic appliances inside out so the brand name and graphics are not easily visible and try to avoid letting mail or subscription media — newspapers, magazines, etc. — pile up on your doorstep or in your mailboxes.

The Geneva police website, however, is a work in progress, one that's not limited to this topic.

"We've been adding to this website," Hurley said. "We've got a FAQ, which we need to add to but CCAP (Circuit Court Access Program) is on there, and there are all kinds of useful links."

are all kinds of useful links."

Meanwhile, Geneva police also are working with the Fontana department. Hurley said Fontana Police Chief Steve Olson is coordinating information from nearby departments.

Surveillance pros & cons

When asked to provide tips on avoiding burglaries, Cates said he's been telling people to keep their eyes open and become sensitive to changes in their neighborhoods.

"People who live there are going to notice this kind of stuff before we will," he said.

But that's in residential areas. For commercial properties, Cates suggested installing a video camera system — with night vision, if business owners can afford it.

"Unfortunately, you can't make anything out with a daytime camera at night," he said.

Again, Cates suggested business owners pay attention to their customers. Sometimes, a person may be eyeing up the business.

"There's usually little clues (business owners and employees) can pick up on when somebody comes in. These usually aren't random," Cates said. "People have to have some idea of where stuff is in these places."