Electronics target of burglary spree, police say

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cape Girardeau police officers took 46 burglary reports in January, a 37 percent jump over the same period last year, as personal electronics devices such as cellphones and tablet computers continue to be a popular target for thieves.

And, with February just three days old, the worrisome trend didn't seem to be slowing Sunday, when the total for residential and commercial burglaries hit 51 for the year. Four more residents reportedly were burglarized, three from one apartment building, whose residents reported electronics stolen from their homes while they were away.

A large percentage of victims making such reports have told police that chief among the items missing are pricey electronics such as smartphones, iPads, Xboxes and televisions. The targeting of such electronics is more prevalent, experts say, in both retail stores and in residential break-ins as gadgets have become smaller and more popular with both home and business users.

Police investigators said the local numbers clearly constitute a burglary spree, in which homes have been hit across many parts of town. Some of the burglaries have been reported at single-family homes, but a majority of the reports have come from apartment dwellers who live on North Street, South Ellis Street, North Pacific Street, North Frederick Street and Whitener Street.

In January 2012, 35 burglaries were reported, and a huge increase over January 2011 when 26 burglaries were reported.

One victim from a burglary said she and her husband returned from work one evening to find several Christmas presents had been taken by someone who crawled through an unlocked window. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said her son's Wii game system was gone, along with her husband's laptop computer and her iPad.

"It's frustrating," she said. "Not only are these things really expensive, but they're the things we use to relax -- our fun time. It's going to cost us a pretty penny to go out and buy a new iPad -- again."

Law enforcement across the country are pointing to an increase in the gadgets such as cellphones, tablets or iPods that people often use for work and play. Experts say the reasons are obvious: People now less frequently carry cash, meaning criminals more often have to go inside a store or business. Smartphones are increasingly popular, with more than 270 million Americans owning a cellphone and more than 100 million iPods, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.

A report from the FBI shows that the theft of video game systems, such as Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation jumped 285 percent over three years, to 42,610 incidents. The report said the most poplar items for thieves are laptop computers, followed by smartphones. Overall, personal electronics continue to be popular items for thieves, and theft numbers of such items continue to rise.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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