More burglaries in Elkhart County? It's hard to say

It may seem like the number of burglaries in Elkhart County is on rise due to recent coverage of break-ins, but the sheriff’s department says it’s hard to know for sure if this cluster of burglaries represents an overall increase in burglary crimes.

“Looking at the stats for just 2013 we’re already at the same number for 2012,” said Cpt. James Bradberry of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Dept., “what I do know, regardless of the numbers—whether they’re different from one year to the next—it’s still the same thing: somebody gets victimized, they lose the property that’s in their home.”

Indiana’s legal code defines burglary as: “a person who breaks and enters the building or structure of another person, with intent to commit a felony in it, commits burglary.”

From that basic description comes varying degrees of burglary, ramping up penalties when things like weapons are brought into play. But for general purposes, incidents reported to sheriffs’ departments that fall under that general category are recorded as “burglaries.”

Here’s how some Michiana counties stack up over the past three years: (keep in mind the differences in size of populations)

Elkhart County

  • 2011: 468 total

  • 2012: 278 total

  • 2013: 278 total

St. Joseph County

  • 2011: 521 total

  • 2012: 338 total

  • 2013: 255 total

LaPorte County

  • 2011: 271 total

  • 2012: 281 total

  • 2013: 156 total

Marshall County

  • 2011: 111 total

  • 2012: 154 total

  • 2013: 88 total

So if burglary rates have fluctuated, how do you combat the crime?
Elkhart County says it can be done through community empowerment.
“I do not like doing the same thing when it does not reduce crime” said Sheriff Brad Rogers. That’s why he launched a community partnership over the summer to connect folks living throughout the county’s townships with individual officers and via social media.

Something the sheriff’s department is trying to do is push information on its Facebook page and Twitter account. Bradberry said that when a burglary happens in a neighborhood the department wants people to know so they can be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

In addition to publishing locations of crimes, the social media accounts often include either descriptions of suspects and suspect vehicles or images from surveillance, identifying suspects.

“I’d probably bet anything that there are more crimes out there that happen because people don’t report it,” added Bradberry.

Burglary statistics can only include incidents reported to the sheriff’s department. Unless officers and deputies happen upon a burglary-in-action, crimes don’t get addressed until someone reports it.

“We need peoples’ help,” Bradberry said.

Community policing is still in its early stages but Bradberry said increased “shared” and “likes” on Facebook indicate the program has been well received.

According to Bradberry, “we're hoping that the more interest we have, the more people we'll have looking for this information, use it, share it, and hopefully from that it will go full circle and return to the sheriff's department.” More information and leads means, hopefully, that the department can solve more crimes and deter burglaries.

“There’s really nothing new,” said Bradberry, “but crime happens.” Because crime happens the sheriff’s department hopes that community members will be engaged in crime stopping by checking online for crime alerts and continuing to report incidents.

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