The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office is urging people to remain vigilant after a sharp uptick in burglaries in the county in recent months.
Grand Forks County Sheriff's Capt. Joel Lloyd said that, from Jan. 1 to July 5, 2019, there were eight reported burglaries in the county. So far this year, there have been 17, with a majority of those occurring since March. He added that while the uptick in burglaries aligns with the start of the pandemic in Grand Forks, it's not clear whether the two have any connection.
Lloyd said he doesn't yet have any theories as to what might be driving the trend, but said many of the reports have several similarities.
"One thing that they seem to have in common between them is a lot of vacant rural residences and farm-type shops where there's nobody around, as well as residences and garages that are temporarily vacant, like somebody might be out of town for the week," he said.
While most of the burglaries have been in private or residential buildings, some commercial buildings also have been burglarized. Lloyd was unable to identify which businesses had been victimized due to the ongoing nature of the investigations.
Victims have reported thefts, ranging in value from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, Lloyd said. While cash has occasionally been stolen, more frequently electronics and tools are being stolen, presumably for their resale value.
Sheriff's deputies have executed search warrants in connection with the crimes, but have yet to make any arrests. Lloyd said they haven't ruled out the possibility that the same person or people are responsible for multiple of the break-ins.
There is a number of things people can do to protect themselves from becoming victims of the trend. He said alarm systems can help deter criminal activity, and surveillance equipment, such as cameras, can help law enforcement identify suspects. In rural areas especially, he said it's also important for properties to be well lit.
He also recommended people keep logs of their valuables, including serial numbers on tools and electronics, so that, if stolen items are recovered, they can be returned. If people plan to be away from their residence for an extended period of time, he also encouraged them to let a neighbor know, or alert the sheriff's office to ensure someone is watching over the property.
The goal should always be preventing opportunistic-style crime, Lloyd said.
"We ask the public to report all suspicious activity to us," he added. "They may not realize what's going on at the time, but, if we can get there and identify the vehicle, it can help us."