Arrests made in Champaign burglary spree

Champaign police have arrested six suspects over the past 16 days in a move they hope will effectively end the large numbers of burglaries that have been plaguing southwest Champaign.

According to the news release, from Feb. 1 to March 30, burglaries in the area south of University Avenue and west of Prospect Avenue jumped 132 percent from where they were the same time last year. In the area, 72 vehicles were broken into during this period, mainly without force, as well as 14 residences.

The arrests, three of which were for vehicle burglary and three of which were for residential burglary, are expected to mean an immediate decrease in crime for that area.

Police believe the suspects were working independently and were responsible for the increase in burglaries.

Gary Spear, crime analyst for the Champaign Police Department, said police identified the trend through crime analysis and came up with suspects.

“What we did then is we redeployed manpower, we worked some overtime shifts, we brought in people to work undercover operations and go out there and work in the streets at three o’clock in the morning,” Spear said.

The arrests will significantly decrease burglaries in not only Champaign, but Urbana and the University as well, he said.

“Some of the people we arrested were on campus,” Spear said. He added that he believes one of the six arrestees may have been responsible for burglaries in campus parking garages and that those crimes have slowed significantly since the arrests.

Spear said the arrests, which were made over the past 16 days, represent a shift away from “reactive” to “proactive” in how the police operate.

“We don’t want to have to wait until that guy makes a mistake, and then 25 burglaries down the road, we just stumble on him and catch him,” Spear said. “I want to catch him now, before he commits those 25 other burglaries.”

Police are encouraging residents to protect themselves from similar thefts by locking their cars and garages, parking inside whenever possible, hiding valuables left in cars (including GPS units) from sight and reporting any suspicious activity to police.