Two homes burglarized in same Grand Forks neighborhood this week, but crimes are not rising

The woman didn’t know she had been robbed until she came downstairs Wednesday morning in the townhome where she lives alone in Grand Forks.

“I saw down the stairwell and the front door was open. I get down to the main floor and the patio door and screen are open. They left it all open.”

The woman, a retired social worker in Grand Forks who asked that her name not be published because of security concerns, soon saw what had been taken.

“As soon as I walked in the room, I could see every pill bottle was gone.”

Her wallet, with an unusually high amount of cash for her, about $100, also was gone.

It happened after she went to bed about 11 p.m. Tuesday and got up about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, she said. “I was awake at 5:30, and I turned the TV on.”

She heard nothing but wonders if the burglar or burglars heard the TV come on and fled fast from her townhome, one of many on the 3900 block of Cherry Street.

The same night only about two blocks away, Alaine Kringen was awake and in the next room in her one-level patio home where she, too, lives alone, on Dacotah View Court, when someone darted in and took her purse from the kitchen.

Kringen saw and heard nothing.

As usual, she watched TV until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, then went around to lock up for the night.

“I wondered, ‘Why is my screen (patio) door a little open in back?’ But I thought maybe I forgot.”

She locked the sliding patio door and front door and went to bed.

The next morning the doors were still locked but she couldn’t find her purse getting ready for a lunch date. She didn’t think too much about it, but her daughter urged Kringen to call police.

Crime not up

It appears the two crimes are connected, being close in time and location, and showing the same “M.O.” of the burglar or burglars, said police Lt. Michael Ferguson.

No suspects have been named, no arrests made yet, Lt. Jim Remer said Friday afternoon.

Sgt. Travis Benson said the number of reported burglaries in the city this year — 72 by Thursday — is down from the average of 82 by this time over the past five years.

Violent home invasions like the one in April 2012 for which three men now are being tried in a Grand Forks court are rare.

Even “stranger” burglaries such as the two this week are not common, he said.

“A lot of these burglaries end up being committed by a suspect known to the victim,” Benson said.

Burglars more and more are looking for prescription drugs, as in these cases, following a nationwide trend, Benson said.

Sometimes burglars get much more than they were looking for. In January a Grand Forks homeowner used his World War I era Colt revolver to beat a nighttime intruder around the head and fired two shots at him, though missing, as the man fled across the yard.

But Benson and Ferguson said their advice to residents finding a burglar in their home normally is to call 911 and not confront anyone.

Any burglary is a serious crime with serious time, even if the burglar takes only $10.

“If you go in and take something from someone’s house, at the minimum that is a Class C felony,” Benson said, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Robbing someone using a weapon, even a club, can mean up to 20 years in prison.

The police department offers a free home survey in which an officer will check out anyone’s home to recommend possible changes to make it more secure.

From the obvious but often-ignored tip to lock doors regularly to trimming shrubbery and improving outside lighting to make a home less burglarable, police can give professional advice.

“A lot of these guys don’t want to go kicking down doors or breaking windows,” Benson said. “They won’t do anything to draw attention.”

No one hurt

Nobody was hurt, physically, in either home invasion this week.

But the woman on Cherry Street, calm and analytical about it the day after, said it was a blow.

“It’s totally unnerving in the sense that I’m in the house. I was upstairs sleeping,” she said. “There’s such a sense of violation. But like my son said later, it probably was a good thing I didn’t hear them — I don’t know if there was one or several — but then I could have been hurt if I had come downstairs.”

Kringen also seems matter-of-fact about the crime.

“Fortunately I only had $10 in my purse,” Kringen said. “But it sure takes a long time to take care of all that business to tend to when things are stolen.”

Calling a half-dozen credit card companies to cancel cards took time, as did dealing with her bank account.

“I had to go get a new driver’s license,” Kringen said. “There’s so many things you never think of.”

The woman on Cherry Street also spent much of this week fixing the damage from the simple theft.

“You really don’t even know what’s in your billfold ‘til you try to remember,” the woman said. “You don’t even think about the things you carry with you that you need.”

It took her friendly pharmacists going to prod insurance companies to approve the purchase of the stolen medications, the woman said.

Season for break-ins

It could have been worse, both women said. A confrontation with someone looking for drugs might not end well, said the woman on Cherry Street.

“They were after meds and money,” she said. “There was a cell phone on the table, there was a laptop on the couch, there was a Kindle right in front of their eyes and a big TV. There were a lot of things that could have gone missing.”

Neither woman plans any big security changes.

“My grandson is supposed to bring over tonight a dowel you can put in the sliding door so it can’t open,” Kringen said.

She’s lived in the duplex-like home for 15 years and never in her life has been the victim of such a crime.

“I always thought since I had a next-door neighbor to my house, I would have no problem,” she said with a laugh. “That was a dumb thing to think.”

The woman on Cherry Street says she, too, doesn’t think it will happen again.

Aside from also installing the large dowel in the bottom track of her patio door to keep it locked — “I had it in the closet,” she said — she doesn’t plan to add any other security measures.

Police as well as both women said the warm weather made the break-ins easier.

Kringen said she kept her patio door open Tuesday night to get the cool breezes after a hot day.

Her fellow victim on Cherry Street said, “In the summertime I know I am a little bit less cautious, because you are out later. I may visit a neighbor and leave the house open, or go for a walk down the block, and the house is open. We just become a little more lax in the summertime.”

“Life goes on on a daily basis and we are complacent with who we are and where we are and what we do. It’s just a little earth-shattering when that changes.”