Eden Prairie Police say they have a lead in the break-ins at several city businesses since late September.
Working with other Twin Cities’ law enforcement agencies, police have identified a “potential person of interest” in the break-ins, according to Lt. Jess Irmiter of the Eden Prairie Police.
Similar incidents have occurred in other Twin Cities communities. Irmiter declined to identify those communities, citing the ongoing investigation.
Eight break-ins were reported at six businesses beginning on Sept. 26. Three break-ins occurred at a single business. Here are the businesses, locations and dates of the break-ins:
- 9/26, 11/9 and 11/16 – Deg Deg Halal Market, 8755 Columbine Road.
- 10/10 – Eden Prairie Halal Market & Deli, 13997 Anderson Lakes Parkway.
- 10/14 – Greek Grill and Fry Co., 8795 Columbine Road.
- 11/7 – Naf Naf Grill, 13250 Technology Drive, #104.
- 11/17 – India Market, 574 Prairie Center Drive, #125.
- 11/20 – Poornanand Foods, 8773 Columbine Road.
Three of the targeted businesses – Poornanand Foods, Greek Grill and Fry Co., and Deg Deg Halal and Deli – are located in the same shopping center on the northwest corner of Anderson Lakes Parkway and Flying Cloud Drive.
Naf Naf Grill is located in the SouthWest Station shopping area, and India Market is located in the Tower Square shopping area adjacent to Eden Prairie Center.
EPLN reached out to representatives of several of the businesses, two of whom agreed to interviews on the condition they not be identified.
One explained that all small businesses – including minority-owned ones – face a dilemma if they speak out publicly.
Many choose to stay silent and avoid publicity about their break-ins for fear of losing business, he said. He cited examples of significant losses in the past after publicizing similar incidents and the difficulty of regaining lost business.
Businesses are still struggling to manage the COVID-induced business slow down, one owner said, adding, “We are not Walmart or Target with resources to be able to handle big losses.”
‘Potential person of interest’
“This is an active investigation,” Irmiter told EPLN on Dec. 6. “We have a potential person of interest … and we are working with some other cities.” Identifying those cities might jeopardize the investigation, he said.
Irmiter also declined to provide any additional information about the person of interest, including whether police suspected the individual might be responsible for all of the Eden Prairie incidents and those in other communities.
In response to the spate of break-ins, Irmiter said that the department has increased directed patrols, worked with business owners, and temporarily stationed a camera trailer in the shopping center on Columbine Road.
That camera trailer was scheduled to move to another location on Dec. 7, Irmiter said.
No additional break-ins have been reported since Poornanand Foods was broken into on Nov. 20, Irmiter said.
‘Now things have changed’
The president of Poornanand Foods told EPLN that he received a call from police at 4:40 a.m. Nov. 20 informing him of the break-in.
In addition to the damage to a storefront door, he said two cash registers were missing.
“Poornanand Foods opened in 2014, and on Jan. 18 next year, it will be eight years,” he said. “Most discomforting is that all these years, I never felt any safety concerns.
“Now things have changed,” he lamented.
While he is glad no one was hurt in the recent incidents, he would like to see additional lighting installed as well as enhanced police surveillance.
In the meantime, the business is working with a contractor to install 32 cameras inside and outside of the store, he said.
Editor’s note: Vijay Dixit contributed to this story. Dixit is a regular contributor and member of the EPLN Board of Directors.
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