Summer in Eden Prairie offers many opportunities: afternoons at the beach, picnics in the park, walking the city’s many trails, and backyard barbecuing.
It also offers thieves many opportunities that can ruin the fun.
For example, a burglar hit the southwest corner of Eden Prairie, walking into several homes unabated and stealing cash, credit cards, and more.
On June 25, a purse and wallet were taken from a vehicle at Staring Lake Park.
The day before, catalytic converters were stolen from two vehicles on Golden Triangle Drive.
EPLN asked Sgt. Lonnie Soppeland of the Eden Prairie Police Department how city residents can reduce their risk of becoming victims of opportunistic criminals.
Lock your doors
Several recent residential burglaries involved a thief entering unlocked doors, most sliding glass doors on decks and patios.
“The No. 1 thing is just keeping your doors locked and your overhead garage door closed,” Soppeland said. “And if you have to park the vehicle outside, you want to ensure that your vehicle is locked and that there are no valuables in sight.”
He also recommends removing garage door openers from vehicles parked outdoors. Thieves break windows and then have access to a garage. Parking in your garage is the best option.
Beware: factory-installed programmable garage door openers may operate without a key fob, according to two Eden Prairie garage door opener companies. Neither are sure if all garage door openers or vehicle makes and models operate the same way.
Soppeland urged residents to call 911 any time they observe suspicious activity, including looking under a parked vehicle – often a prelude to catalytic converter theft.
“We would rather respond and have it be nothing than not respond and have something happen in the area,” he said.
Home security systems?
Soppeland called security systems “helpful” and recommended displaying the system’s sign predominantly.
“Make sure (the system is) properly installed and has an audible horn or bell and notifies the alarm company,” he said.
Soppeland also recommends notifying your neighbors that you have an alarm and how they can help you respond if it were to go off.
If you are going to be gone from your home for an extended time, Soppeland offered these suggestions:
- Don’t leave garbage cans sitting by the street.
- Stop newspaper and mail deliveries.
- Put timers on your interior lights.
- Let your neighbors know you will be gone.
People do call the police department to inform them they will be gone, Soppeland said. The department will conduct extra patrols of the area during down time, but it’s not guaranteed, he said.
Lighting and surveillance systems
Soppeland said that perimeter lighting around a home is a good idea.
“Once they go on, it heightens your awareness of what’s happening on your property,” he said.
He recommended installing lights in locations that make them difficult to tamper with.
Soppeland said that Amazon’s Ring cameras and others that turn on and record individuals coming to a door or are on the back side of a home can be useful to police.
Ring video from several homes was instrumental in confirming the identity of a suspect in the Settler’s Ridge string of burglaries on May 31. That suspect has been arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree burglary.
Eden Prairie has chosen not to join about 400 police departments around the country and about 15 in Minnesota – including Plymouth, Edina and Shakopee – that have established neighborhood partnerships that allow police to request access to Ring footage.
“We don’t do that in Eden Prairie right now,” Soppeland said.
Homeowners in the Settler’s Ridge cases voluntarily supplied footage to police.
Eden Prairie also has deployed license plate readers on several of its squad cars and in several locations across the city. The readers have assisted police in recovering some stolen cars and arresting suspects.
Other safety tips
Eden Prairie hasn’t had any carjackings, Soppeland said, but there are measures people can take to prevent them, as well as car break-ins while parked in a large lot such as at the Eden Prairie Center mall.
Soppeland suggests keeping your doors locked while driving and maintaining enough distance in front of you at stoplights so that you have an escape route.
Park in a well-lit spot and have your keys in your hand, he said.
If you have valuables you must leave behind, Soppeland suggests putting them in the vehicle’s trunk.
“Always be aware of your surroundings,” Soppeland said. “Before you walk out, take a little scan of the parking lot and take a note of what’s out there and if there’s anybody walking around.”
Some stores may provide an escort service back to vehicles at night if asked, Soppeland said.