Word is out—Stapleton is an easy place for crime. The frequency of crimes of opportunity needs to be addressed, according to District 5 Lt. Bob Wyckoff.
Crimes of opportunity are perfect for burglars, offering little risk and big rewards. Simple prevention can help fend off these crimes but are often disregarded in Stapleton, Wyckoff says a golden example took place in mid-September. A resident had just purchased a brand-new Nissan Pathfinder that was parked in the garage unlocked with the keys in the ignition. The owner’s older car was parked on the street unlocked with the garage door opener accessible. The criminal simply opened the car door, clicked open the garage, got into the new Pathfinder, and drove off.
“Pried doors or smashed windows, we don’t encounter that much. Most of the burglaries and thefts are open-door burglaries, where the side security door is unlocked or a car door is unlocked,” Wyckoff says.
While auto theft is down 20 percent from this time last year, theft from auto is up 22 percent, according to Wyckoff. In 90 percent of those cases, the car is unlocked. Many residents leave electronics, money, backpacks or tools exposed in their unlocked car when they run in to do an errand or work out at the gym.
“We care about the safety of our residents and their family, and hope they’re noticing all that we do to protect them. We hope they’re also taking initiative to protect themselves as well,” Wyckoff says.
Crimes of opportunity can be prevented just as easily as they are committed. Wyckoff reminds everyone to hide valuable items in their car, roll up the windows, and lock the doors. At home, use a padlock on a gate, leave porch lights on at night, remove valuables from cars, lock cars, never leave an unoccupied car running, and close and lock the garage. If a neighbor’s garage is open, knock on the door to let them know. Be aware of and report suspicious activity.
Unlike crimes of opportunity, vandalism is a unique crime that is more difficult to prevent. “When people intentionally vandalize property, that is just mean-spirited and it is really difficult to understand why that occurs,” he says.
In early September, Stapleton experienced the first vandalism spree of its kind. Three juveniles ages 13–16 carrying backpacks vandalized seven properties from the 7900 to 8400 East blocks of 23rd to 25th avenues in Stapleton, according to Wyckoff. They reportedly ran, screamed, jumped on vehicles, and threw rocks through windows.
“It was shocking. It happened so quickly,” says Dan Oltersdorf, who was one of the victims. Three other houses on the same block also had rocks thrown through windows.
At the time the vandalism occurred, there was a high call volume to the District 5 Police Department for other reports in the area so officers responded as quickly as they could. Meanwhile, residents convened outside and pieced together information. One resident actually saw three suspicious-looking individuals and followed them on his bike to confront them about the situation, but they took off running. In hindsight, he says he would have let the police track them down.
Stapleton neighbors reported information to the police and they have two suspects who are connected to other crimes, including assaulting a 7-year-old and stealing his bike. At this time, one of the kids’ parents is willing to cooperate and the other is not, and there is insufficient evidence to arrest them, so the investigation continues.
In addition, five windows in the 2400–2600 blocks of Syracuse were broken by rock throwing within a day or two of the incidents described above.
Wyckoff hopes if Stapleton overall becomes less appealing to criminals, the chance of vandalism will be reduced. His biggest suggestion to prevent vandalism is leave on porch lights; light is a great deterrent. For more information, contact District 5 at 720.913.1400 or Dist5@Denvergov.org