A rash of commercial burglaries in Carson City has prompted a $1,000 reward to be offered and caused operators of the victim offices and others to take a closer look at preventing similar threats.
Eight offices and small businesses were burglarized the weekend of Feb. 25-28, with the culprits take ranging from a few dollars in a coffee fund to expensive computer equipment.
"An alarm system was at the top of the list," Nevada Public Defender Steve McGuire said Friday of the steps taken after a window was broken to gain access to that office. All that was taken was several dollars of employees' money from a snack fund.
Wylie Wilson, owner of Wylie's Copy Center, said a security system is being installed there after last weekend's break-in, the second there.
And Joe McCarthy, director of the Brewery Arts Center, said installation of a fairly substantial alarm system are among the changes that are being made at the center. "There's going to be sensors everywhere," McCarthy said.
Friends In Service Helping was not hit in the string of burglaries, but FISH Executive Director Monte Fast got the message pretty quickly after he heard of what had happened elsewhere.
"We went ahead and spent $3,500 on a burglar alarm system," Fast said. "When we remodeled last year, we didn't put one in right away, but we've got it going now."
Thursday, Secret Witness offered the $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect or suspects in the eight burglaries.
The burglaries are similar in that windows were smashed or doors broken or pried open to gain entry. And none of the target offices or businesses had alarm systems. Other than rifling drawers looking for something of value, the burglars did not do much damage once inside.
"You have to give them credit for not being vandals," McGuire said.
Wilson, whose printing and copying business has been in the cement block building on East Ninth Street for 15 years, said he had not installed a security system when he moved in because there were only two small windows plus the showroom window and his printing equipment was heavy with much of it bolted to the floor.
"My feeling had been, with my equipment, if they wanted it, they'd have to have a lot of time to move it," Wilson said.
Over the years, though, the printing industry changed and many of the functions could be done on computers and other electronic equipment that were easier to lift - and to fence.
McCarthy said another major change made at the Brewery Arts Center was the installation of sturdier locks.
"We went ahead and secured what we think are the points of entry into the various parts of the building with upgraded commercial locks and deadbolts," McCarthy said. "And we made sure that all of our security lighting is functioning."
The steps taken, belatedly, by the burglary victims are the basic ones that should be taken to protect assets in any office or business, Carson City Sheriff's Chief Deputy Scott Burau said Friday.
"You want to discourage burglars by making it hard on them, by slowing them down," Burau said. "If it looks too hard at your place, they'll go looking somewhere else.
"Alarm systems are a Godsend. Lights on inside and outside make the burglar feel uncomfortable, because he can be seen. Good locks - the more difficult you make it, the less likely you'll be the target, because these guys are under the clock when they go in."
Businesses that do handle money need to make it a habit to get it deposited in the bank daily, Burau said. But burglars are seeking anything that has value or can be converted to cash, he said.
"In 80 percent or better of these cases, the burglars are trying to finance a narcotics habit," he said. "When we investigate burglaries, we work hand in hand with the narcotics teams, as well as adult and juvenile probation offices. The same holds true for armed robberies, by the way, and it's a common thread in auto burglaries."
Wilson, the copy shop owner, said he also believes drugs are a big factor in burglaries.
"My feeling is, if we would do our job as far as getting rid of the drugs in this community or this country, we'd be far better off," he said. "Drugs have taken over the country. You just don't know who's doing it - it could be a next door neighbor.
"We've got to sit down and think about what we're going to do to make it safer."
Anyone with information about the recent commercial burglaries in Carson City can qualify for a $1,000 reward by calling Secret Witness at 322-4900, the Secret Witness Hispanic Hotline at 721-7727 or Carson City Sheriff's Detective Robert White at 887-2020 ext. 1405. All calls to Secret Witness remain anonymous.