Denis Yoder’s Father’s Day slumber was interrupted by a noise at a rear sliding glass door at his west Lawrence home earlier this summer.
By the numbers
Between May 1 and Aug. 31, there were 94 aggravated home burglaries reported in Lawrence, although six did not have available police reports.
Here’s the monthly breakdown from the available reports:
• May: 24
• June: 23
• July: 29
• August: 12
In 43 cases, the victims knew when the burglary occurred. In 45 cases, only a time range was known.
In the cases when time of offense was known, the burglary happened:
• 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.: 13
• 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.: 12
• 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.: 12
• 6 a.m. to noon: 4
• Noon to 11 p.m.: 2
Day of the week crimes were reported
Location, with city divided east to west by Iowa Street, and north to south by Bob Billings Parkway or 15th Street
“I just heard some rustling,” said Yoder, who flipped on a light and yelled.
An intruder, who opened the unlocked screen door, fled as Yoder called police shortly before 4 a.m. June 17.
Nothing was taken, but the incident changed the way Yoder and his family think about home safety.
“More than a little disconcerting,” said Yoder, who was a victim of one of 94 aggravated home burglaries — those in which someone was home during the crime — reported to police between May and the end of August, according to records supplied by Lawrence police.
A Journal-World analysis of those burglary reports shows what police have been saying for the past several months: There really doesn’t seem to be a strong pattern of where or how the crimes are occurring.
The crimes are just as likely on the weekend as the weekdays and just as common in northwest Lawrence as in the southeast part of the city.
“It provides a tremendous challenge,” said Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley as he looked over a burglary map created from the burglary reports.
The crimes started in southwest Lawrence, McKinley said, and police increased patrol efforts in those areas. Then burglary reports shifted north, then east, then west, until any discernible patterns washed away.
What also changed was how burglars were gaining entry, and their boldness.
In May, as police began reporting the spike, many of the homes, such as Yoder’s, were being entered through an unlocked back door or garage door. As public awareness increased and police urged residents to lock doors and leave on lights, police began seeing more forced-entry burglaries. About half of the reported cases involve forced entry.
In one case, McKinley said, burglars even entered through front door and walked right past residents sleeping in a living room.
While police have increased efforts and made solving and preventing crimes a top priority, the randomness of the burglaries has left a less-than-impressive clearance rate. Of the 94 burglaries analyzed by the Journal-World, police have arrested eight suspects for 10 burglaries.
But those figures are deceptive, McKinley said.
One factor is that residents are reporting more of the crimes, some of which, in the past, may have been brushed aside, McKinley said. With the increased focus on home burglaries, even someone rattling at a door or screen gets a police call.
While that may affect how clearance rates look, that’s what police want, McKinley said. They want local residents to call them.
Even attempted burglaries, or what seem like brief and unsuccessful burglary attempts, help police track crimes and could lead to a clue that helps solve other cases.
“We may get something out of that,” he said.
And while police may suspect that someone who’s been arrested also is guilty of other crimes, police are left with the cases they can prove, McKinley said.
More clearances may be on the horizon, though, as evidence testing results begin trickling in from the lab. In many of the cases, police have collected fingerprints or other DNA that they hope will produce suspects in some of the crimes from months ago.
The same advice to Lawrence residents to prevent home burglaries that’s been repeated for months holds true, McKinley said.
Lock your doors, keeps exterior lights on, pay close attention to activity in your neighborhood and notify police of anything unusual.
“None of that has changed,” he said.
For residents such as Yoder, who’s lived at his home for 15 years and has never had a previous burglary attempt, home safety, unfortunately, gets top billing now. The family has updated its security system and added motion-detecting lights, among other measures.
In the past, the family didn’t always twist that lock at the back door in their quiet neighborhood.
“We do now,” Yoder said.