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Locking doors help prevent break-ins, Jamestown detective says

Vehicle break-ins are on the rise, according to Capt. LeRoy Gross with the Jamestown Police Department.

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An unattended vehicle with an open window is an open opportunity for thieves.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Locking doors and taking photos of items with a cellphone will help prevent break-ins and recover stolen items, according to Detective Capt. LeRoy Gross with the Jamestown Police Department.

“Lock your doors whether it’s your apartment door, house door, your garage door, your storage unit door, your car door,” Gross said.

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An illustration of this unlocked vehicle with keys left in the ignition is an ideal setting for a thief.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Vehicle break-ins are on the rise and happen on a weekly basis, he said. In almost every case, he said the vehicle was left unlocked.

Items stolen from vehicles include change, sunglasses and school bags with electronics. Gross said numerous firearms have been stolen from vehicles and garages.

“If there is something in your vehicle, take it out of sight,” he said. “These people for the most part are going to try the door and if it’s locked they are going to move on.”

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Reports to the Stutsman County Communications Center during the week of Oct. 17 include:

  • Oct. 17: Theft from a vehicle where a backpack and a boat key were taken from a vehicle in northeast Jamestown. The caller did not remember if the vehicle was locked.
  • Oct. 17: An individual reported having video of somebody trying to get into a vehicle in southwest Jamestown. 
  • Oct. 17:  A burglary of a garage in northeast Jamestown where the garage was unlocked but the suspect’s bolt cutter was found in the building. The caller reported the suspect leaving on a kid’s bike and firearms being taken.
  • Oct. 18: Money stolen from a vehicle in northeast Jamestown. 
  • Oct. 19: Firearms stolen from a vehicle. 
  • Oct. 20: Theft from a motor vehicle where a speaker box and a speaker were taken along with the vehicle's keys in southwest Jamestown. The caller said the incident happened a week and half prior to the report on Oct. 20.

Gross said photos should be taken with a cellphone of valuable items, including jewelry and firearms. He said to take closeup photos of the serial numbers on each firearm.
“Take a picture of your tackle box,” he said. “If we come across a tackle box someplace, if we know exactly what we are looking for, we can share it. We can share that photo with the other officers, with the probation officer.”

It's more important to have the serial number of the firearm rather than the make, model and caliber information, Gross said. Without that serial number, the Police Department cannot run the search for the item through the National Crime Information Center.

"Then if we get a hit, then obviously we can get somebody’s gun returned," he said. "Without the serial number, it’s hard for us to track unless we stumble across it.”

Gross said having the serial number entered with the National Crime Information Center can help recover an item years down the road.

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Disc locks with hardened steel are recommended for protecting items in storage units.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Before closing storage units, Gross said take a photo with a cellphone so the Jamestown Police Department knows what items to look for. He said people have so many items in their storage units and don’t know what’s missing if someone cuts the lock on those doors. Sometimes individuals will report an item missing from a storage unit two or three weeks after the break-in was reported.

“Just take pictures and catalog this stuff,” he said. “Put it away in your phone somewhere and then you have it when you need it.”

He said burglaries and thefts are happening in all areas of Jamestown and are “pretty much ongoing.”

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In some cases, people will leave their apartment door unlocked when they leave and find items missing after they come back.

“It seems like in almost every case when that happens, they suspect it’s an ex or they suspect it’s a neighbor or something like that,” Gross said.

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Disc locks such as these are recommended for protecting items in storage units.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Some cases stay unresolved because there isn’t a suspect. He said if there is a suspect, detectives have a lead if there are no tracks in the snow or ground, a witness or a camera.

He said home surveillance cameras are very helpful for the Police Department in finding the suspect. Most surveillance cameras now are infrared and can see and record video without light, he said.

“These home surveillance cameras are becoming very inexpensive,” Gross said. “For $200, you have a whole system.”

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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