Half of Paradise Valley burglaries in last year show no forced entry

Over the last year Paradise Valley police officials say 37 of the reported 74 residential burglaries are characterized as no-force entry. (File photo)

Over the last year Paradise Valley police officials say 37 of the reported 75 residential burglaries are characterized as no-force entry. (File photo)

Town of Paradise Valley residents: Lock your doors, windows and set your alarm if you have one.

The Paradise Valley Police Department is reporting between the period of March 1, 2014 and March 31 there have been 75 residential burglaries of which 37 were reported as no-force entry, which means no locks were picked, windows crashed or doors kicked in.

“This could include cases in which the method of entry was not evident and is probably not representative of how many residential burglaries were committed by the offender(s) entering through an unlocked door or window,” clarified Paradise Valley Police Lt. Mike Horn in an April 3 written response to an inquiry from Independent Newsmedia.

“Determining that would require reading each case’s narrative prepared by the responding officer(s). That being said, I think it’s fair to say that in all probability a large number of the 37 cases involved entry being made through unlocked doors and/or windows.”

A strong amount of opportunistic crime present in Paradise Valley is nothing new, Mayor Michael Collins says.

“I know from chairing the 2013 Public Safety Task Force that no-force burglaries comprise a large percentage of the opportunistic crime that occurs in our community,” he said in an April 8 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Our town council and police department have worked hard over the past two years significantly increasing resident outreach and engagement to better educate and inform residents of their shared responsibility when it comes to protection of private property.”

With just over half of all residential burglaries over the last year being considered no-force entry, Mayor Collins says communication must improve between municipality and homeowner.

“On one hand it is disappointing to read a majority of burglary press releases that report doors and windows unlocked and alarms turned off,” he said.

“It means that we still have work ahead of us better educating residents on the importance of securing their own property and being less of a target for crime. On the other hand I see this as both an opportunity and mandate for the council to take a leadership role in helping our police department focus in on this condition to make meaningful and measurable progress.”

A concerning trend

Paradise Valley Det. Steve Schrimpf defines a no-force burglary as one where the suspect gained access through an unlocked, open or unsecured door, window or gate.

The Paradise Valley Police Department is undergoing a complete technological overhaul. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The Paradise Valley Police Department is undergoing a complete technological overhaul officials say will improve local police operations across the board. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The amount of no-force burglaries reported in Paradise Valley is about 20 percent higher than the national average, Det. Schrimpf says.

“The latest national statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (2010) indicates that 60.5 percent of the burglaries that occurred involved forcible entry while 33.2 percent did not,” he pointed out. “The remaining 6.3 percent were only attempted burglaries.”

Det. Schrimpf contends Paradise Valley residents should look to focus attention on “target hardening” every aspect of their residences.

“If you reside on a property that borders a golf course, wash, or drainage canal, make access to your property from those areas difficult, install motion sensor lighting, security cameras, and gate locks,” he explained. “Every barrier you install or “harden” makes your property  less inviting and tends to make the burglar move on to an easier target.”

Mayor Collins points to the creation of a resident public safety advisory committee as the keystone to helping educate residents about better safety practices.

“I intend to nominate Councilwoman Maria Syms to chair this important committee and work with her, this new committee, and the rest of Council to keep public safety as our number one focus,” he said of the advisory committee’s infancy.

The purpose of the advisory committee is to create conversation between town residents and town staff about the police department and about other public safety concerns, states resolution 1330.

Town council passed the advisory committee in a 5-1 vote at the March 27 town hall meeting.

According to the resolution, the advisory committee will serve to create dialogue on public safety concerns such as prevention, enforcement, awareness, and community and victim outreach.

Six town residents will be nominated by the mayor to serve as members on the advisory committee, each serving a two year term. One town councilmember, appointed by the council, will serve as chairperson, the resolution states.

“I look forward to a continued focus on community outreach, engagement, and education from our police department and increased efforts and emphasis on this very important issue from our newly created Advisory Committee on Public Safety,” Mayor Collins said.  “I also look forward to residents fulfilling their own obligation to secure their private property and become less of a target. It will take meaningful progress on both fronts to reduce the frequency of no-force burglaries and other crimes of opportunity in our town.”

While the rate at which no-force burglaries are being reported is noteworthy, Det. Schrimpf says there is no evidence linking any of the 37 burglaries together.

“At this time there is no physical evidence to link any of the residential burglaries, however we analyze other factors such as time-of-day, location, items stolen, and information shared with other neighboring police departments, before making a determination on whether crimes are related,” he said.

The trend of no-force burglaries growing is a concerning one, Det. Schrimpf contends.

“It is especially concerning not only to our detectives, but to the department as a whole. Typically, in a residential burglary without force, entry is made in relative silence, no breaking glass is heard, no banging doors, and most often, no audible alarms are sounded,” he said.

“While we all want to believe we are safe in our homes, it is crucial that each homeowner takes basic steps to protect their families and property. This includes locking doors and windows, arming alarm systems, securing valuables, and ensuring security systems that are in place are functioning properly.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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