Break-ins on the rise

Residents forming Block Watch in Sanders Beach

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COEUR d'ALENE - In one burglary, a Coeur d'Alene resident returned home to be greeted by a stranger coming out her back door. She turned and ran.

In another, the victim was convinced a burglar was inside her home when she arrived with her grandchildren. She locked herself and the kids in a car until the home was searched.

Burglaries are on the rise in the Lake City, and burglars are becoming as brazen as ever, even trying to break in when someone is home.

Victims of one burglary in a Sanders Beach home are fighting back by forming a Block Watch program, and will hold a meeting this week.

It will make a difference, said Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Christie Wood.

"Neighborhood Watch is a proven deterrent to crime," she said. "When neighbors are organized and aware of who their neighbors are, and who belongs in the neighborhood, they are much more likely to call the police when they see suspicious activity."

Residential burglaries in Coeur d'Alene are rising.

In June 2011, there were 12 burglaries reported. This year, 31 were reported in June. The total for the first six months of 2011 was 107. The first six months of 2012, there were 140 reported burglaries.

Business burglaries are also up. In the first six months of 2011 there were 21 reported. In the first six months of 2012 there were 50 reported.

Police say burglars are paying attention to when residents leave their homes, and when they return. They're watching for signs someone is headed out on vacation.

The Sanders Beach area home of Jack Riggs and Sandy Patano was burglarized June 30. Burglars used a crowbar to force open the back door while the couple was gone boating for just a few hours.

Patano said she wasn't aware there had been several burglaries not far from their home. Once she learned there had been, she was determined to do something to stop them. This week, she and Jack are hosting a Block Watch meeting, where they hope to share information about how to prevent burglaries.

"We hope we're going to create a more tightly knit neighborhood where we watch out for one another, and each other's property," she said Monday.

Patano said she was surprised when their home was burglarized during the day. They have a security system, but it wasn't turned on.

She later distributed fliers to neighbors about the Block Watch meeting. Most were unaware there had been burglaries near their homes.

One homeowner said they usually don't even lock their house when they leave. Those trusting days are over, police say, and residents shouldn't take it for granted their home is safe.

"I don't want to alarm our community, but unless people are aware there's an increased level of burglaries, they're not going to pay attention," she said.

Some recent burglaries include:

* 2100 block of north Seventh. Two firearms, TV, Xbox, and laptop were missing. Police believe suspects pried open a door to gain access to the home.

* 1400 block of north Seventh. A woman returned home from work Thursday afternoon. According to a police report, she noticed a light in the house as she was walking toward the backyard, and assumed she left the TV on. "She then saw a light in a different room of the house. Before she realized what was going on a male stepped out of the back door of her house." The woman ran to a neighbor's residence. She saw the male ride by the neighbor's house, southbound on a bicycle. The victim wasn't certain if anything was missing, but said a bicycle was stolen form the yard a few weeks prior and her mother recently suspected someone may be stealing the groceries.

* 1200 block of east Ash. A house sitter said she was in the master bedroom watching television about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when she heard a "ruckus." She turned the lights on and walked around the house to make sure all the doors were secured. She also checked outside but did not see anyone suspicious in the area. The next day, the bathroom window was found broken and the screen had been moved. The homeowner believes the suspect was scared away when the lights were turned on.

* 5700 block of north Pleasant Way. The victim told police she left the house at 8 a.m. Sunday, and returned around 11:30 with her grandchildren. The resident found the back door, which she locked before leaving, now open. She then noticed the drawers where she kept jewelry were also open, and jewelry was missing. The woman "collected the children and they went outside and locked themselves in her vehicle until her adult son could come and check the residence." She told police she believed the burglar was still in the home when she and her grandchildren returned because she noticed the back gate was closed when she arrived home. When she was sitting in the car waiting for her son to arrive, she noticed the gate was open.

Coeur d'Alene has more than 50 active Block Watch groups with hundreds of neighbors that participate. More would help deter criminals, Wood said.

Sanders Beach residents interested in the Block Watch program can call Wood at 769-2320.

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