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Mercer Island police chief speaks about increase in burglaries

I have received a number of inquires recently regarding residential burglaries on the Island. I thought it would be helpful to answer some of these questions, and to share some of the measures your Police Department is taking to combat these crimes.

Question 1: Has there been an increase in burglaries on Mercer Island this year?

Answer:  Over the past 10 years, Mercer Island has averaged 73 burglaries per year.  In 2012 we experienced 87 reported burglaries, with 47 cases occurring within the first six months of the year.  For the first six months of this year we have experienced 48 burglaries.  In 2010 and 2011 we experienced 51 and 59 burglaries respectively for the whole year. So the short answer is: yes, we have seen an increase in burglaries over the past three years.

Whenever our numbers show an increase, we look for the possible drivers and patterns that can help us address the problem.  We also take a close look at what other surrounding cities are experiencing.  The other Police Chiefs tell me that they too have seen an increase in burglaries, so this issue is not unique to Mercer Island. Most burglaries here are committed by criminals who also target the surrounding communities.

Question 2: Have you arrested any suspected burglars?

Answer:  Yes, a number of arrests have been made.  Your Police Department takes the responsibility of keeping this community safe seriously, and we have been very active in our efforts to prevent and investigate these burglaries.  We utilize advanced technologies, adapt our resource deployment strategies, and remain proactive with our contacts.  Our patrol officers pay close attention to suspicious behaviors and they work closely with our detectives to identify suspects.

Recent successes include officers intervening before the suspects even had the chance to burglarize homes, and we have also arrested several suspects during the actual commission of some of these crimes.  Earlier this year our detectives partnered with officers from the Bellevue Police Department to arrest five burglary suspects believed to be responsible for approximately 100 burglaries in the region (including 11 burglaries on Mercer Island).  In April and May of this year, our detectives arrested one burglary suspect who is believed to have committed six burglaries on Mercer Island, and another suspect believed to be responsible for at least a dozen other local burglaries; we were also able to recover some of the property taken in these burglaries.

Our officers are very proactive in their contact with the public, and this approach continues to pay off.  We also remain active in our efforts to investigate, identify and locate those who have committed these crimes.  We collect evidence at the crime scenes, utilize current technology, and work closely with other agencies to track down suspects.  While some of these cases can be put together relatively quickly, most require a significant investment of time and are very labor intensive.  Despite the challenges in developing these cases, our detectives remain very committed to apprehending those who victimize our community.

Question 3: Are solicitors responsible for these burglaries?

Answer:  While it is certainly possible that burglars could pose as solicitors, we know of only one confirmed incident in the past 10 years where this was actually the case.  I understand that some solicitors can be aggressive and confrontational, but this does not mean that they are burglars in disguise.  Remember, you do not have to answer the door when solicitors come to your home.  You can also post “No Solicitors” signs in visible locations.  If you feel threatened please call the MI Police Department.

Question 4: What can we, as citizens, do to better protect ourselves from these crimes?

Answer:  While it is not possible to make your home 100 percent “burglar proof,” you can take reasonable precautions that will reduce the chances of becoming a victim.  By locking your doors, setting your alarm (if you have one), cutting back vegetation that could conceal a burglar, and looking out for your neighbors, you can help to deter these criminals. More tips and ideas on how to keep yourself and your family safe can be found at:http://www.mercergov.org/News.asp?NewsID=1554

If you hear or see something that seems suspicious, please call the MIPD right away.  Our crime tips phone line is: (206) 275-7955.  The crime tips online webpage form is at: http://www.mercergov.org/FormPage.asp?FormID=40

While I realize that being a victim of a burglary or any other crime can be extremely upsetting, I would still like to remind everyone that Mercer Island remains one of the safest communities in the region, with one of the lowest crime rates.  This is a wonderful city with citizens who care deeply about the well being of this community.  We have much for which to be proud and thankful, and I consider it a privilege to serve as your Police Chief.

Mercer Island Chief of Police Ed Holmes

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