Archive for Monday, June 3, 2013

North Lawrence residents, irked by a rash of thefts, find that many have gone unreported

June 3, 2013


Lawrence crime, fire, courts coverage
Have a tip?
Contact Journal-World reporter Caitlin Doornbos:
The Lawrence Police Department's online crime mapping system, which is open to the public, shows the distribution of theft reports in Lawrence from 2010 to the present.

The Lawrence Police Department's online crime mapping system, which is open to the public, shows the distribution of theft reports in Lawrence from 2010 to the present.

It was one more small theft in North Lawrence.

On May 10, a 67-year-old retired man discovered two items stolen from his property on North Eighth Street: an old five-foot-long metal Coca-Cola sign, worth $200, and a vintage red globe traffic light, worth $100.

It happens all the time. Radiators and batteries are stolen from vehicles, copper wire is stripped wherever it can be found, and residents find items missing from their yards.

“It’s just gotten out of hand,” said Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association.

The problem has grown worse over the past five years, Boyle said, and residents are fed up with it. The neighborhood group called a special meeting last week to discuss the problem with police and city officials. About 50 residents — more than twice the usual attendance, Boyle said — met with a Lawrence police captain, an officer who patrols the neighborhood, and city commissioners Mike Amyx, Bob Schumm, and Jeremy Farmer. The group quickly zeroed in one part of the problem: many of the thefts had never been reported to police.

“It does make it difficult,” said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman. Sometimes people don’t report thefts because they don’t want to bother police, or because they think it unlikely the property or the thief will ever be found. If they left a car unlocked and found items stolen, or don’t have a serial number written down for a piece of missing property, people sometimes just shrug their shoulders and don’t call police.

“But they should,” McKinley said. Police often recover stolen property from a suspect while making an arrest in an unrelated case, but can’t match the property to an owner without records. And without records of those thefts, it’s harder to establish criminal patterns and attach those criminal cases to a suspect for prosecution. Just because you don’t have a serial number for a stolen bike or stereo, McKinley said, doesn’t mean the property can’t be recovered or that you shouldn’t report the theft.

Because not all thefts are reported, statistics only tell part of the story. But some types of thefts have been on the rise across Lawrence over the past few years, according to police records. Reports of thefts from buildings, for example, climbed to 467 in 2012 from a low of 306 in 2009.

Boyle, with the North Lawrence neighborhood association, said the meeting reminded everyone that residents and police would have to work together to solve the problem. “Of course, the police department is just as good as the information they get,” he said. “I think people had gotten careless, and then we have this rash of burglaries and thefts.”

Michael Dale Siler

Michael Dale Siler

In the case of the Coca-Cola sign and traffic light missing from North Eighth Street, the property owner did file a police report the next day. More than two weeks later, officers investigating the case found a suspect just a few blocks away on Locust Street. They arrested Michael Dale Siler, 42, of Lawrence, on suspicion of methamphetamine possession and illegally carrying a weapon. They also issued him a citation to appear in municipal court for the theft case. The property wasn’t recovered immediately, but it could be matched with its owner by the police report if found.

Siler, who has spent time in Kansas prisons for being convicted of forgery, burglary and theft in Douglas County, was charged with misdemeanor drug possession and released on a $3,750 bond. That pointed to another issue discussed in Thursday’s meeting: many residents were irked that some people seemed to be repeatedly arrested and charged with offenses like theft, only to be released from jail again.

That may be a harder problem to solve. According to the law, suspects charged with misdemeanors and low-end felonies can’t be kept in jail indefinitely. City officials and police said that they sympathized with residents’ frustration, but there was little local government could do about that.

Participants in Thursday’s meeting discussed organizing a second meeting in the near future, and possibly inviting an official from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office to talk about the criminal justice system.

In the meantime, police and city officials said they hoped residents would report any thefts that occur in the future.

“It’s a shared responsibility type of thing,” Jeremy Farmer, one of the city commissioners at the meeting, said. “For whatever reason, if people don’t feel like they should report it, or they don’t report it, that puts us all at a disadvantage.”


riverdrifter 5 years ago

Pictures do not lie. Get a shot of the perps and send them to the DG co attorney's office or the Lawrence police. Many surveillance cameras are very cleverly disguised and are not overly expensive. You can also easily hide them yourself, i.e. bird houses, faux utility boxes, etc. A common wildlife trail camera will work fine. Hide it or put up high, out of the line of sight. Here are two good sources: and
/> A camera that takes video is not needed, just one that takes sharp, clear images -especially at night. FWIW, Reconyx is the best. I do not sell them or anything like that -they're just the best. Oh, yeah, cable lock your camera so it can't be stolen!

Bobbi Walls 5 years ago

I've lived in North Lawrence for almost 9 years now. We have had multiple bikes stolen (in daylight), and other items go missing such as the propane tank off our grill, etc. This problem has been ongoing, and seems to be getting worse.

been_there 5 years ago

My neighbor's security cameras seems to help keep criminals away. Houses with alleys might consider getting together and see if they can get one end closed so cars can only exit and enter from one end. That would help eliminate drive throughs. Then if you see a car that doesn't belong to a neighbor drive through you can get the license tag number for future reference if there is a problem. Does the North Lawrence Association's website have a place for comments? If someone has something taken they can post their location and if anybody saw anything they could contact them.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

We have a North Lawrence facebook page where people report these thefts.

Mark English 5 years ago

Exactly... these need to be reported not to Facebook but the Police. Facebook isn't patrolling your streets.

been_there 5 years ago

Nowhere in my post did I say not to report to police. Comprehensive reading would help.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

Exactly. We didn't say to not report to the police. Been there was just asking if the NLIA had a place on their website to list current thefts and I responded that we have a group FB page. Get over yourself people and read.

Mark English 5 years ago

Nowhere in my post does it show I was replying to your post. I was replying to the one right above mine by "Gatekeeper". A little knowledge on how posting replies would help.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

They aren't going to let us block an entire alley and most of us that have alleys have privacy fences and don't see the cars that drive though anyways.

As the city comms were told, we need more street lighting in N. Lawrence. Since they never come over to N. Lawrence, they were clueless that part of the problems are caused because the city ignores us and has never made sure we have adequate lighting to deter crime. They sure wouldn't let West Lawrence go without street lighting, but don't care about us. Hopefully they listened and will do something. There are many like me that have flood lighting from hell so my property is lit up so it can be seen from space and deters these creeps from stealing from my property.

Again, the police know who's behind our problems, they just need help putting them away.

Armored_One 5 years ago

One of the main reasons I moved my family out of North Lawrence.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

NO! This is a problem that has gotten really bad lately and us residents of N. Lawrence are taking action and getting the city and police more involved.

We have a few bad apples that are causing the issues and we're working together to take care of these people. The police know who they are, they just need our help to put them behind bars.

littlebit1313 5 years ago

Wow toe do you honestly think the police planned this whole thing? They got the north lawrence improvement and all those citizens to call for the meeting so they could get more funding. Everything is not a conspiracy and as someone who lived in north larry for 18 years it is a very real problem.

nohelpinnlawrence 5 years ago

We had the police over a few years back and told us that they were not CSI. and they would not be able to find the air compressors or miter saw or weed eater they were all new never used. so why call the police

gatekeeper 5 years ago

You should have contacted the head of police and the paper instead of sitting back and not letting them handle the situation. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. Yes, we've had some less than stellar officers, but that doesn't mean you just sit back and not mandate action.

Jennifer Dropkin 5 years ago

Street lighting is pretty bad in North Lawrence. But it's not just that there aren't enough lights, it's that the lights that go out often don't get reported. Worse, the city isn't responsible for getting those lights fixed--Westar is. It took a lot of work for me to find out who was supposed to fix a dark street and how to report it. Just in case you want to know:

gatekeeper 5 years ago

Good info to have. Thank you. Unfortunately on my street and in many areas, there just aren't lights period. I wish there were lights I could report out. I work for a lighting company. Get me a cherry picker and I'll bring home the lamps and change them out. I can even update us to LED. ;-)

Kyle Chandler 5 years ago

Police Officers are absolutely great at one thing, showing up AFTER the crime was committed. PLUS, i know around the 23rd and Iowa to Downtown area there are quite a few EXTRA, as in TOO MANY, LEOs. I watch them sit on their cell phones in parking lots in their new SUV's not doing a damn thing, except waiting to dog pile on traffic stops where they can perform with the upmost absurdity, manufacturing crimes and pretending to be ethical. There needs to be a few layoffs, because a bored LEO is A BAD LEO. But when it comes to real crime, forget the cops, GET A CAMERA AND A LOUISVILLE SLUGGER!

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I will say that since we've been getting on the police, they are patrolling a lot more. They know the area where the trouble makers are and have been sending over more patrols to keep an eye on things. If you call them enough reporting all these crimes, they do patrol more often.

Bud Stagg 5 years ago

I had 2 AC units stolen for copper last fall. I live just in the county in N. Lawrence. The Sheriff dept was very helpful. Took finger prints, set up cameras and increased patrols. Did not catch them but I was satisfied that they did show concern.

FlintlockRifle 5 years ago

What's too many leo's?? Some new gadget the police have to catch speeders and light runners??

been_there 5 years ago

Both times I have had to report a crime in North Lawrence the cops were great and did a great job, the courts though-not so great.

Matt Schwartz 5 years ago

Anybody having problems with gas being siphoned over there?

Bobbi Walls 5 years ago

I know of a couple people who have had their gas siphoned in North Lawrence. Time to buy locking gas caps.

justforfun 5 years ago

OMG You people crack me up with these comments!!! West side/North side, greasy fingerprint from stealing a battery, police conspiracy, poor lighting, "we know who they are!" Block allys, facebook, etc.... As a west sider I'm sure glad we don't have these problems!!! Oh wait we do....

gatekeeper 5 years ago

The difference between West Lawrence and North Lawrence (I know, I left west Lawrence after living there for years) is that we communicate and look out for each other in N. Lawrence. We know our neighbors. We talk, we hang out, we're friends. That's why we love our FB page, easy way to let others know when anything is up (lose dog, free stuff to give to neighbors, crimes, etc...) When I moved to NL, so many of my friends couldn't believe I would live over there. Now that they see how great the people are, they understand. I'll take these problems anyday over living back west of Iowa again.

been_there 5 years ago

I can't find the LJW story about the burglary at the hydro-electric power plant when it was being built. Anyway I don't think the story reported that the guy was caught because a neighbor witnessed it and notified police and he was apprehended with the stolen objects. Gatekeeper is right, police need our help if we want to reduce crime in North Lawrence.

amac 5 years ago

I live in N. Lawrence and not long ago someone stole my dog poop scoop and an old bucket half full of poop out of my yard. OMG! I didn't report it. It seemed silly to report at the time, but maybe I should have. I am not one of them, but I have heard a lot of the residents in NL don't WANT street lights...I cannot confirm this.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I've lived in NL for 12 years and have only heard residents complain about lack of lighting. If anyone doesn't want street lights, then they need to move to the country.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I hope they enjoyed the poop. Probably thought they could scrap it for the metal and got a great surprise. Maybe I should start leaving dog bombs inside of objects they want to steal. At least I'll know they got a pile of cr*p for their efforts.

I hate to say it, but most of this is due to drugs and these people will steal anything if they think they can make a buck. Junkies have no care except where to get their next high.

joes_donuts 5 years ago

Problem with the LPD adding more officers to the patrol is they will just send them to the college bars and continue to have one officer for N. Lawrence, one officer for East Lawrence, and one officer for West Lawrence. All the others will be in the Oread or Downtown chasing the dangerous girls in short skirts.

Stephanie Weaver 5 years ago

We're having similar problems here in East Lawrence, and have had for years. We had a few minor items stolen from our front yard & porch relatively recently (our Kansas flag and staff, a bird feeder). We didn't report it because we didn't notice it for a while, and have no idea when they were stolen (it was towards the end of winter when we noticed). What is the protocol for reporting if we have no idea when it happened?

gatekeeper 5 years ago

You can still call. They'll most likely take a report over the phone. You'll never get it back, but there will at least be a record of it. The more crimes happen in an area, the more the police will patrol that area.

They told us also that if we see anything suspicious, CALL. They will keep it anonymous and won't come out to your house if you're afraid that who you're calling about could retaliate (which is a problem with those involved over here). They'd rather get a call and know something is going on instead of having no idea.

I always thought we had a lot less crime in NL because the crime maps showed very little compared to other areas. Now I know it's just because no one was reporting it.

Megan Green Stuke 5 years ago

Our north Lawrence house was burgled 3 years ago. They got all our electronics, all my jewelry, lots of heirlooms. I had a pretty good idea it was some neighbor kids down the street. Cops were at my house about six minutes and I never heard another thing. We sold and moved within the year. Too bad, I loved being a sandrat.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.