It happens almost every summer. Police are called for more bicycle thefts, and more vandalisms and thefts from parked vehicles.
Summer of 2012 is no exception, says River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque.
"We're not exactly seeing a rash of these cases, but a noticeable amount," he said. "It's significant, and there is still quite a bit of summer left."
Since June patrol officers have responded to 18 bike thefts.
While many have occurred downtown, there've been others on South Wasson Lane, Lewis Street, Union Street, Spring Street, Cemetery Road, Griffey Street, Pine Ridge Terrace, Orange Street, Wildcat Court, Eighth Street, Sunset Lane and West Johnson Street.
One was a brazen theft during the day in the parking lot of Family Fresh Foods. A boy was spotted removing a bike from a car rack. He rode off as a woman left the store with her groceries and yelled at him.
Thefts and vandalisms to cars and trucks have an even wider range.
They seem less likely to occur downtown: From West Cascade Avenue, South Falls Street, High Ridge Road and South State Street to Hamilton Road, Lucille Court, Bartosh Lane and River Falls Hills Drive.
Leque urged people to take preventative steps so they're less likely to become victims. These include:
- Keep your bicycle or auto locked and parked in a well-lit area, especially at night and overnight. If possible, keep your bicycle inside a house, apartment or closed garage.
- If your bike is attached to a car rack, keep it locked there so it can't simply be unlatched and taken down.
- Don't leave valuables, like cash, purse or cellphone, in plain sight even if your vehicle is locked.
Leque added people shouldn't leave their unlocked bicycle or auto unattended even briefly -- as they might be tempted to do while rushing in and out of a store or a home.
Leque said someone can steal in seconds, so "it should not be a source of comfort" to walk away from an unlocked bike or car for even five or ten minutes.
Leque asked neighbors and parents to call police if they "notice anyone with a bicycle that clearly is not theirs or that seems out of place or suspicious...this also applies to a (suspect) who has accumulated lots of bikes or bike parts."
If that happens, report what you see by calling police at 715-425-0909.
Witnesses can also remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward by calling area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, emailing a tip to firstname.lastname@example.org, or texting a tip by starting a message with TIP674 and sending to CRIMES (274637).