Shortly after midnight on Dec. 3, 2012, Farmer Jim’s Feed store owner Lisa Day said she got a call from her security system company reporting a door was open at the store, indicating a possible burglary.
Day said by the time she reached her store, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office had already responded to the call. “The deputy was at the Diamond Shamrock (on Meridian Road and Highway 24),” she said. “He looked around the building, said he would lift for fingerprints but that they were in and out in seconds.”
When Renee Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Hay Co, arrived to work that day, she said she realized her business had been burglarized as well. “They vandalized our store and stole some merchandise,” Bartlett said. “They were after money.”
Day said she agreed. “They ripped out the wires for the cash box and took the thing right out the door,” she said. “There was a trail of nickels and dimes leading out the door. But they knew exactly what they wanted and where to go.”
Both Day and Bartlett said they don’t think the incidents were totally random. Both said it appeared as though at least one person involved had been to their businesses before to look for vulnerabilities. They also agreed that the burglaries could have been much worse if either business had kept money in their stores overnight, which neither does.
Lt. Jeff Kramer with the sheriff’s office said crimes like that have not been on the rise in the last two years. Forty-four business burglaries were reported in 2011 in the Falcon area and 40 were reported in 2012.
“Three things have to exist for a crime to occur: The suspect has to have the desire to commit it, a target for the crime and the opportunity to commit it,” Kramer said. “How do we build in levels of deterrents to deter the crime from taking place in a particular area? How do I make this target (the business) less attractive for a crime? I would remove some of the opportunities for a crime to occur.”
Kramer said he suggests getting rid of shadowy areas, making sure the business is well-lit all around. “Alarm systems can be a viable option; and, if you have an alarm, post that you have the alarm because they won’t want to run the risk of breaking the glass or that door and setting off the alarm,” he said.
“Have good locks on the doors and consider the type of construction on all the doors, not just the front one. Keep the windows locked and secured when you’re not there. I would encourage business owners that whatever condition they leave their business in when they leave for the day set it up that way and step outside to assess what potential areas of concerns like shadows or places hidden by bushes they can identify.”
Bartlett and Day said the incidents were more of a hassle and frustration than anything else. “The aftermath is the cleanup and you’re still trying to open for business,” Day said. “It’s really inconvenient.”
Bartlett said, “It’s pretty sad that these things have been happening out here. It makes you frustrated and wonder about people.”
Both owners said they have taken added precautions to make their businesses less of a target.
“Are we going to take away crime entirely?” Kramer said. “Probably not. But we can make them take that crime somewhere else by making it not worth it to come here. We can make it harder so they will take the path of least resistance instead.”