Thieves target

Sarah McKenzie

A string of church burglaries has prompted Minneapolis police to issue a crime alert today to all congregations in southeast Minneapolis.
Four churches near the University have been burglarized since Jan. 15, said Minneapolis police Lt. Carol Serafin. In most cases the churches have reported small losses — with items like VCRs, cameras or blank checks reported stolen.
The latest church break in occurred Sunday at Grace University Lutheran on Harvard Street Southeast. According to police reports, the burglar walked in through an unlocked door, but no items were reported stolen.
Serafin said the church burglaries may be related to the recent increase in business burglaries in the area. In December, 19 businesses reported burglaries; normally, only two or three are reported in a month.
“In some cases there is no loss at all at these churches,” Serafin said. “It makes me think it could be someone just walking into these places in order to get out of the cold.”
Like the business burglaries in Dinkytown and Stadium Village, the incidents seem to be indicative of a transient thief.
Usually the burglar enters the church through an unlocked door. Once inside, the thief has ransacked office spaces or simply walked around, stealing nothing.
Nicole Magnan, who works in Minneapolis’ crime prevention unit known as SAFE, said one of the church employees had a run-in with a possible suspect.
When confronted by the employee, the suspicious individual allegedly said he entered the church looking for a telephone, Magnan said.
Magnan said the suspect was described as 6-foot white male in his 50s with a “pronounced, round belly.”
Church employees are encouraged to heighten security measures by locking office and outside doors. Keeping communion wine out of the public’s eye is also suggested, Magnan said.

In other police news:
ù An unidentified thief targeted residents of Middlebrook Hall last Wednesday, snatching personal belongings in the morning hours while their rooms were left unattended.
According to University Police reports, a suspicious man was seen in the residence hall shortly before students reported items missing.
“This is the first time something like this has happened since I have been here,” said Girish Ballolla, residence hall coordinator since July 1997. “I have reiterated to the residents the importance of locking their doors.”
Police filed two theft reports at Middlebrook. In one case a student left his door unlocked while in the shower; he returned to his room 15 minutes later and noticed his wallet containing $5 and a credit card was missing.
Natalie Mann, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore, also reported her purse stolen. Her boyfriend Daniel Engh, a College of Natural Resources sophomore, had left the room unlocked for about five minutes to take a shower while she was at work.
When Engh returned, his wallet and Mann’s purse were missing. A few days later, a janitor at the Rarig Center found the purse in a bathroom; Engh’s wallet is still missing.
“This happens a lot more frequently than we would like,” said Ralph Rickgarn, executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life. “Ninety percent of our theft cases involve someone leaving their door open and room unattended.”

ù Minneapolis police arrested a 21-year-old man late Saturday night at a house party in Dinkytown for disorderly conduct.
Police initially responded to a call from neighbors complaining about a loud party on the 800 block of 8th Avenue Southeast.
According to police reports, Jacob Overcott ignored police when they asked him to put his beer down on the table upon entering the house. Instead, he allegedly began ranting about the fact that he was 21 and legally old enough to drink, according to the report.
Overcott is not affiliated with the University.
“I asked him to get rid of the beer,” said Minneapolis police Officer Hung Do. “He walked out of the house and tried to start a riot.”
Do placed Overcott under arrest when he allegedly incited the 30 individuals at the party to ignore the police by saying: “I’m 21 years old and I can stand wherever I want,” according to the report.
Police took Overcott to Hennepin County Jail early Sunday morning. He was released after a few hours in custody.
Overcott could not be reached for comment.