Homeowners should be good witnesses in burglaries

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010
— It’s 3 a.m., and you wake to a noise in your home.

You get up to investigate and find someone in your living room, ready to take off with your valuables.

This summer, a burglar or burglars have been that bold at several Janesville homes while homeowners slept a few feet away.

So what do you do if burglars are in your house?

In two cases in the last week, a homeowner and employees of a business caught burglars and held them until police arrived:

-- A group of employees arriving at Alter Recycling, 1753 Beloit Ave., early Saturday morning discovered five males attempting to steal from the business, police said. The employees detained one man who later was arrested on charges of party to burglary, and two counts of theft and criminal trespass. Police later arrested four other men.

-- Joe Volk early Monday morning said he “detained” a 16-year-old boy on his front step until police arrived after the boy had broken into the house through a window. The boy, who knew Volk’s daughter, took cell phones, a digital camera, keys and a piece of jewelry, Volk said. The 16-year-old was referred to juvenile authorities on charges of burglary and theft, but police don’t believe the boy is connected to the string of other burglaries, Janesville Police Deputy Chief John Olsen said.

If you come across a crime being committed, the most important thing is to be a good witness, Olsen said.

“People should certainly be careful. The best thing is to be a good witness,” he said. “People should never put themselves in harm’s way. These are property crimes.”

Victims should call 911 right away.

In most of the recent overnight burglaries, the burglars fled the house and did not seek a confrontation, he said.

If you find someone in your home, quietly call 911 and lock yourself behind a door, he said.

If the burglar notices you, he’s either going to flee or confront you, he said.

“But you don’t know which one it’s going to be. The best is to get us on scene without them knowing,” he said.

If you catch a burglar fleeing, try to keep him in sight and get a license plate number and description until police arrive, he said.

If you chase the person, you could end up with a confrontation, he said.

“It’s just going to be hard to confront somebody when you don’t know what their actions are going to be,” he said.

In the two recent cases, people who caught burglars didn’t have to use any force and nobody’s life was in jeopardy.

“They shouldn’t use force to detain these people for property crimes like this,” Olsen said.

People have the right to defend themselves or others who are in danger, he said.

Use of force might be necessary “if someone is being hurt, or worse,” he said.

“If someone’s getting hurt, you step in to help. What’s force? That’s kind of a tricky thing,” he said.

“But none of these cases has escalated to that point,” he said. “That’s a great thing, and we’ve been able to make some arrests based on these citizens actions.”

Last updated: 3:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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