Crime still happens in a small town

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Photo by Mandi Bateman With seven vehicles stolen in Boundary County this year, leaving keys in a vehicle is an opportunity for a crime of convenience.

BONNERS FERRY — According to the Idaho State Police’s 2016 Idaho Statewide Crime Profile Crime Clock a burglary occurs every 1.4 hours, a theft every 24.4 minutes, and a motor vehicle theft every 4.2 hours. To many, this statistic only applies to the big cities.

“We are fortunate that we live in a great community, but we are not immune,” said Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer. “We still have people, who if they see an opportunity to take property, to steal, to do any of those crimes, they will still do it.”

The numbers seem high, but even in the relative quiet of our community, in 2017, there have been approximately seven vehicles stolen, close to 20 burglaries, and upward of 80 thefts in Boundary County.

The citizens of this community have the ability to lower that number. It is often complacency and a sense of comfort that allows people to become victims.

“We encounter victims, that maybe would not have to be a victim, if they would take some precautions ahead of time,” explained Kramer. “We want to help give people some tools to try and help them to not to be victims.”

With an upswing of thefts of items being taken from vehicles, something as simple as locking the doors can be a deterrent. Although that will not stop every potential thief, very often it is a crime of convenience — if the door is locked, they move on the next vehicle.

Leaving keys in a vehicle is another opportunity for a crime of convenience. The car that needs to be hotwired takes time. Keys provide an easy target, even in the relative security of private property.

“We have recovered several, we have suspects in some, and some people have been charged,” said Kramer about this year’s car thefts. “But again, most of those vehicles were taken because keys were left in them, doors were left unlocked, so they are more of an opportunist type crime.”

In a community filled with pickup trucks, carrying a variety of outdoor equipment, from chainsaws to tackle boxes or hunting gear, many items are taken from the beds of these vehicles. Items left outside on private property, or kept in unlocked sheds, are also subject to being stolen and sold outside of the county or traded for drugs.

Kramer suggests marking these items. “If we locate them, we can get them back to the property owner,” he said. “If someone sees that an item is marked they are not going to be as likely to take it.”

“These thieves are looking for a quick way to turn a buck or to trade it for drugs,” explained Kramer. “If they have to spend some elbow grease trying to scrub off marks or some personal information, it’s going to slow them down, or they are going to look for something else.”

On Oct. 4, the Boundary County Public Auction was held at the location formerly known as the National Guard Armory.

“Some of the items we sold at the auction were lost property that we recovered, but we had no way of finding the owner for the property,” said Kramer. These items included several bicycle that weren’t reported stolen, with no identifying marks on them, as well as chainsaws and other items, such as a bag of goose decoys.

Kramer encourages people to get to know their neighbors. “A lot of the crimes I think can be prevented, just with a little more awareness,” he said. “Neighbors know what is normal in their area, so they are going to be the first ones to notice if something is out of place or looks suspicious.”

Although Boundary County is a close-knit community, immunity from crime is a misconception. “We get people that are capable of doing anything, as we have seen, and it only takes one of two of those to cause a lot of havoc,” explained Kamer. “We can have one or two people who can really start to run a string of thefts.”

“We are looking for our community to partner with us, help us catch the ones who are doing the crimes,” said Kramer. “We can’t be every place at once.”

Citizens are encouraged to call dispatch at the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office if they see something that is out of the ordinary and explain why they believe it to be suspicious. “The time they see it is the best time to call it in,” said Kramer.

“We are a community up here in Boundary County,” said Kramer. “Be part of that community, get involved, get to know your neighbors, help each other out.”

To further encourage the education of the citizens of Boundary County, the Sheriff’s Office is sponsoring a Night Out Against Crime, a Symposium on Safety, at the former National Guard Armory from 3 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 26.

The Sheriff’s Office will be sending two of its reserves, Jim Paulus and Steve Usher, who are former law enforcement officers, to a crime prevention academy put on by the Idaho Crime Prevention Association. They will be bringing their education back to the community on theft prevention, identity theft, alarm systems, recovery of lost or stolen property, personal safety, neighborhood watch programs, internet and phone scams, and more.

“This will be our first reach out to the community to show how they can partner with us,” said Kramer. “I think this will help drop the rate of crime down, and help us get some of the people who are responsible for these crimes, and to help us continue to lock them up and hold them accountable.”

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