Commercial burglaries have been on the rise in Olympia, with thieves increasingly targeting businesses instead of homes.
The Olympia Police Department investigated 26 commercial burglaries in January — that’s about twice the number of commercial burglaries in January of last year, said Lt. Paul Lower. Police investigated 18 residential burglaries last month, compared to 45 in January of last year.
Lower said it’s been difficult for investigators to get leads on commercial burglary suspects, as few patterns have emerged. The burglars tend to strike any time between 1 and 5 a.m., they take a variety of items, and they’ve targeted all areas of the city.
“There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to them,” Lower said. “This is a hard one for us to figure out. There just aren’t a lot of similarities.”
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One of the trends police have noticed is that the thieves have hit several medical offices in west Olympia. But while the targets are similar, the crimes themselves aren’t, Lower said. The burglars took a wide variety of items — from office equipment to smartphones to loose change — and struck at all times of the night.
“At first we thought it might be one person, but now we don’t know,” Lower said.
Business parks and strip malls along Martin Way have also been targets, Lower said. Again, a variety of items were taken, and the burglars struck any time between 1 and 5 a.m.
The burglars also tried unsuccessfully to access safes at several businesses.
Since noticing the increases, the department has created a plan to combat the crime wave. Officers are hitting the streets — both on foot and in patrol cars — in early morning hours, keeping an eye on businesses that may be vulnerable, Lower said. They’re even checking behind businesses to make sure people aren’t trying to break in, and asking employees at 24-hour businesses if they’ve seen any suspicious activity.
Businesses can also help to prevent the burglaries, Lower said. Employees should make sure that laptops, iPads and other valuables aren’t visible through windows when they leave for the day. Business owners should get to know their neighbors and keep an eye on one another. Any suspicious activity or damage that may have been caused by an attempted break-in should be reported to the police.
Security cameras are often the most helpful tools in catching a burglar, Lower said.
“Police officers are really good at getting to know folks who are out and about at night,” Lower said. “And if we get pictures or video of a suspect, it’s pretty likely that there will be an officer who knows who they are.”