University police target thefts near Como student cooperative

Joanna Dornfeld

Despite a 10 percent decrease in theft in the 2nd Precinct, a string of motor vehicle break-ins hit the Como neighborhood last week.

“Unfortunately there is not a lot folks can do,” said Lt. Steve Kincaid of the Minneapolis Police Department Investigative Unit. “Someone who knows what they are doing, they can be in and out in 30 seconds.”

An unknown suspect broke into four vehicles on 29th Avenue Southeast over Thanksgiving weekend. All four victims live in the Como Student Community Cooperative.

According to police reports, it appeared the perpetrator was looking for car stereos.

“I know at least here in the student housing, (theft) is very common,” said Nick Lamoreax, a senior majoring in architecture. Lamoreaux’s stereo was stolen from his vehicle between 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24 and 9:15 a.m. Nov. 25.

When Lamoreaux moved into Como student housing a year and a half ago, a friend warned him that there was a lot of theft in the area, Lamoreaux said.

“It seems to me that this is a heavily targeted area,” he said. “Nobody really knows each other well enough to know what is suspicious behavior.”

After a string of bike thefts a few months ago, University police set up a sting operation and caught two bike thieves, said Officer Troy Butha of the University police.

The department is planning a similar stakeout in the Como student cooperative to catch the stereo thieves, Butha said.

The police might also organize a block watch, he said.

The Como student cooperative is working with its residents to stanch crime in the community, said Jerry Erickson, community general manager.

“We first of all encourage all of our residents to contact the University police so they will increase their patrol,” Erickson said. “We are constantly reviewing our lighting policy.”

Community management also encourages the residents to report all unusual behavior, he said.

It is difficult to apprehend a person breaking into cars. There are often too many fingerprints in a car to obtain a set from the suspect. And car stereos do not turn up in pawnshops because they are too easy to track, Kincaid said.

Car stereos are usually reinstalled in other vehicles, bartered on the street or sold in bars, he said.

Vehicles left unattended for long periods of time are attractive targets, said Capt. Steve Johnson of the University police.

“It’s a good idea to check on your vehicle regularly,” he said.

The best way for individuals to protect themselves is to leave nothing valuable in their vehicles. Car owners should also not advertise expensive sound systems by driving through neighborhoods with their bass thumping, Kincaid said.

“If you take reasonable precaution, you’ve done what you can do,” he said.