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updated: 9/18/2013 4:18 PM

String of home burglaries puts Naperville on alert

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Burglars have struck 29 Naperville homes in six weeks, forcing many residents to step up basic security measures and to call police when they see anything suspicious.

Police Chief Robert Marshall said he wants residents to remain vigilant until authorities find the people behind the string of burglaries, most of which have occurred in south Naperville.

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Marshall said police have received 628 calls about suspicious people or situations in the past three weeks, and officers have made 882 traffic stops trying to find the culprits.

Police say the burglars have stolen jewelry, cash, electronics, alcohol and, in one case, a safe. The burglaries have occurred at all hours of the day and night.

"We're seeing daytime as well as nighttime burglaries with both forced and nonforced entries," Marshall said.

Police have redeployed personnel from traffic, youth, special operations, violent crimes and financial crimes units to assist with efforts to find what they believe are three or four groups of burglars. Community Radio Watch volunteers are patrolling in their own cars to provide police with intelligence, and a public information campaign has been reminding people to keep their garages closed and their doors locked.

Police also are communicating regularly with homeowners groups in advance of an Oct. 19 Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation meeting focused on public safety, the organization's President Bob Fischer said.

Marshall said he wants residents to know police are doing all they can to find and arrest the burglars, including sharing information with nearby departments and asking contractors, landscapers and the public to keep their eye out for anything unusual.

But those efforts don't necessarily mean residents will see more squad cars on their streets.

"Sometimes we don't want to be seen in the neighborhood because we are operating covertly with plainclothes officers as well as unmarked police cars," he said.

No one has been injured in the burglaries, Marshall said. Police have not been able to gather much evidence and there have been few witnesses.

The 29 burglaries in six weeks is an unusually high number, but Marshall said Naperville saw 22 over the same six-week period last year. And there actually have been 49 fewer burglaries this year between January and August than were reported during the same period last year. This year's total is at 132, compared with 181 last year.

In a move that could help with investigating burglaries, city staff members are drafting an ordinance that would require pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to check identification and take photos of items during each transaction. Aurora and Glen Ellyn are among nearby communities with such requirements already on the books.

"I want us to consider adopting such an ordinance so we can prevent some of the ease of converting these stolen goods to cash," Councilman Steve Chirico said.

The ordinance could come before city council for consideration within the next two months once the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is given a chance to review it, City Manager Doug Krieger said.

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