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Rash of burglaries continues; police now waking homeowners with open garage doors

Hastings residents who leave their garage doors open overnight may be awoken in the middle of the night to the police ringing their doorbells.

A rash of thefts over the past few months has prompted the action by the department. Chief of Police Paul Schnell said a thief or thieves are targeting unlocked cars and open garage doors at night. The open garage doors often times lead to unlocked interior doors, and on several occasions here a thief has walked right into houses and made off with purses and wallets. Sleeping residents are often times just a few feet away.

"It's a very unsettling kind of crime," Schnell said. "We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent it from happening."

This week alone, at least 11 such crimes were reported, and Schnell suspects the actual number of crimes exceeds the ones that were reported.

He said that since the officers began knocking on doors to warn residents about their garage doors, they've approached between six and 12 residents every night.

The policy isn't exactly going over well with everyone, Schnell said.

"Some officers have gotten an earful in certain situations," he said. "Most people have been thankful they were being woken up to have their door closed, especially in light of the fact that there have been several people who have been victims."

Hastings isn't the only area community to be hit by the thief or thieves. Cottage Grove is a neighboring jurisdiction dealing with the same kind of uptick in robberies, Schnell said.

"Our investigators have been working quite intensively with the Cottage Grove Police Department and a couple other agencies, where we are trying to make the connection to see if they are all related," he said. "We believe they're connected."

Schnell's message was simple: Lock your car doors and close your garage door, then wait for the door to get all the way down before going inside.