Crimes are on the rise...police urge people to lock their cars

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/14/99.

Crimes committed by juveniles and adults are not limited to the big city.

Crimes can occur any time of the day, any place, and in any community.

Paynesville Police Chief Tony Schmitt states juvenile crime is up in the Paynesville area. "I have no statistics at my fingertips as we don't separate our reports by juvenile and adults," Schmitt said. "However, we are seeing a rise in vandalism reports, curfew violations, and juvenile smoking."

The city ordinance states juveniles 18 and younger are to be off the streets or public places between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

It is also unlawful for parents to permit their children to loiter on the streets or public places between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Schmitt stated the Paynesville Police Department has been taking a more aggressive approach in enforcing the curfew ordinance.

In February, more theft reports were appearing from the Paynesville Area Public Schools.

According to Schmitt, people participating in community education activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 5 and 9:30 p.m. were being targeted by juveniles.

The first report was made in February. Schmitt then heard about other incidents which had not been reported to the police.

"People leave their cars unlocked, making it easy for anyone to take valuables left out in the open," Schmitt warned.

He advised people not to leave anything of value visible in vehicles. Schmitt also urged people to always park in a well lit areas.

"Many people wouldn't consider taking anything from a car. However, an unlocked car is considered a "crime of opportunity," Schmitt said. Among the items taken this winter were CDs, a CD player, radar detector, and cash out of billfolds left in vehicles.

Schmitt said it is rather difficult to trace and find items such as flashlights, CD players, and CDs.

Schmitt has charges pending against two juveniles for the vandalism done to the driver's education training car in March. The juveniles did over $1,800 worth of damage.

"Juveniles don't always realize what their damages cost others," Schmitt added. Most of the crimes are being committed by youth ranging in age anywhere from 13 to 20, according to Schmitt.

The incidents of crime reports have not been limited to the school. Youth are suspected in shoting out windows with ball bearings in slingshots at the following places: Ted's RV, Subway, Alco, and the Good Samaritan Care Center.

"It is part of the small town syndrome where people are too trusting," Schmitt emphasized. "A lot of people don't think they need to lock their vehicles at home or when they are shopping, because they live in a small town."

Schmitt stressed the importance of locking cars and reporting anything that appears to be missing. "Many people often think they just misplaced the item," he added.

He also urged people to lock their homes and garages when they leave home. "You'd be surprised to hear how many vehicles are taken at 2:30 a.m. for a joy ride, then returned," Schmitt said.

"People are too trusting, Schmitt added, "We shouldn't feel paranoid when we leave home, however, it's just common sense to lock your doors,."

Steve Brisendine, community education director, said the thefts caught him by surprise. "I've had four or five people report thefts following activities," he said.

"It is unfortunate that in this day and age we need to lock our cars wherever we go," Brisendine added.

Brisendine urged people who see youth aimlessly wandering between cars to talk with him or the police.

"Volleyball nights have unpredictable schedules as no two games are ever done at the same time. Someone might have seen the youth in the parking lots and didn't think anything of it at the time," he added. "It's hard to believe nobody saw anything or anybody."

Brisendine added the school concession stand has been broken into a couple of times as well this winter. "Nothing is ever left there worth stealing, but kids keep trying to find something," he said.

Brisendine urged area residents to be aware of what is happening in their neighborhoods, school, or downtown. If you see something out of the ordinary, call the police.

"Ninty-nine percent of our kids are good kids. But it seems whenever two or three kids are together, things seem to happen, some good and some bad," he added.

State crime rate
According to the American Experi-ment Quarterly, the serious crime rate in Minnesota reached an all-time high in 1980, peaking at 4,800 crimes per 100,000 people. By 1985 the rate had decreased but then began steadily climbing upward, reaching 4,539 in 1990, a 210 percent increase since 1960.

The crime rate peaked again in 1992 at 4,591 and by 1997 had decreased to 4,414 per 100,000 people. From 1991 to 1997, there was a 3.8 percent increase statewide.

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