Nov 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) - While the number of St. Cloud burglaries reported in 2011 continue to outpace last year's totals, a new three-officer St. Cloud police burglary task force is making headway against the epidemic, St. Cloud police chief Dennis Ballentine said.
During an appearance on KNSI's "Meet the Mayor" program Tuesday, Ballentine said that even though St. Cloud's yearly average of approximately 300 burglaries will be topped this year, the intensified police attention to catching the culprits through the department's new task force is making a difference.
"It's been amazing what they've accomplished in the three months they've been in place," Ballentine said. "They've arrested more than 13 people, cleared up dozens of cases."
Ballentine said ending the rash of home burglaries in St. Cloud is more difficult than catching a handful of crooks -- it's about urging homeowners and renters to cut down on the potential for easy "crimes of opportunity."
"There are little pockets of individuals and we continue to focus on it, but it's a two-pronged attack," Ballentine said. "So often, it's through an unlocked door or window, they look in and see something that looks good, they walk in and they take it. Smash and grab and they're gone. We try to convince people not to be that victim."
Ballentine warned that keeping doors, windows and garages looked as well as keeping expensive items out of direct public view can go a long way toward protecting area residents from theft.
"We are becoming an urban society, there is no doubt about that," Ballentine said. "We have to adapt our policing techniques and our staffing levels and the approaches we take based on that. That's a learning process for the police department also."
Another facet of that shift is addressing gang problems within the city limits as well as its reach throughout the tri-county area, Ballentine said.
"We've got some 200 confirmed gang members in the community at a given time...it's a business and it's a violent business," Ballentine said.
Ballentine said he and a contingent of area legislators were set to meet with Minnesota Department Department of Public Safety commissioner Ramona Dohman Thursday to talk about cuts being proposed that could curtail or end the city's gang strike force.
"They're wanting us to make some changes that I don't feel comfortable with," Ballentine said. "We have to keep a gang strike force in St. Cloud on top of these people as best we can."