Most burglaries go unsolved

Tommy Thompson came home the night of Nov. 1 last year to find his home ransacked.

While he was on a two-week business trip, thieves ran off with more than $12,000 of his property. His television, computers and two credit cards were gone. So was his microwave oven.

Thompson, 48, called Las Vegas police to report the burglary, and a patrol officer arrived three hours later. After he demanded that police investigators collect fingerprints and DNA from cups and cigarette butts thieves left throughout the house, an investigator showed up an hour later.

The night dragged on into the early morning hours, until investigators finally left.

By most accounts, the officers did a thorough job — probably more than the case deserved, actually. On an average day, Thompson’s case would have been just one of 48 burglaries reported.

Yet for all that work, police admit the people who broke into Thompson’s home will probably never be caught.

Burglaries account for more crimes than murders, rapes, robberies and assaults combined in Clark County, and, of those crimes, burglaries are the least likely to be solved.

Nationwide, barely more than 1 in 10 cases will be solved, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That rate is similar in Clark County, where the Metropolitan Police Department covers the vast majority of the geographical area and similarly the county’s crimes.

“That’s a very typical case,” Capt. Stavros Anthony said of Thompson’s burglary. “And we will not solve that case.”

For victims of burglary cases, some effort to solve the case is expected. But such cases are so common and so difficult to solve that they typically end in frustration for police and victims.

Ten percent solved

Las Vegas saw 17,724 burglaries last year. About 20 detectives in the Metropolitan Police Department covered them.

Chances are that no more than 1,700 will get solved.

The FBI requires police departments nationwide to report their rate of “clearances” annually for a variety of crimes, including burglaries.

By the bureau’s definition, a case can only be cleared if an arrest is made or if it’s cleared exceptionally, defined as those rare instances in which the offender dies or the victim refuses to cooperate with prosecutors.

Over the past decade, the Metropolitan Police Department’s reported clearance rate for burglaries has hovered around 25 percent, a number that Anthony said didn’t accurately represent the real burglary clearance rate.

In 2006, the reported rate dropped to 5.8 percent, which may be a more accurate figure than the 23.6 percent clearance rate reported the year before.

Police were never able to provide a conclusive explanation for the drastic clearance rate drop. But they did provide several theories about possible changes in record-keeping:

The number of cleared cases in previous years could have been inflated because records officials were counting the number of people arrested for burglaries, not the number of cases that get cleared. Often, more than one person is arrested for a single burglary.

Whoever is compiling the statistics is relying on a different definition of “burglary,” thus skewing the numbers.

Anthony estimated that only 10 percent of typical burglaries in the department’s jurisdiction get solved, which is the national average for departments serving populations of 1 million or more.

In North Las Vegas and Henderson, the rate of burglaries cleared is 9.4 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. But those departments handle only a fraction of the number of cases Las Vegas police see.

By comparison, murders nationally are usually cleared about 60 percent of the time, and rapes about 40 percent of the time.

Regardless of the department or jurisdiction, burglaries are notoriously difficult to solve.

“We get burglary reports where we have absolutely nothing,” Anthony said. “All we have is that it was broken into, some stuff was taken.

“If somebody breaks into a house and nobody sees anything, we have absolutely nothing to follow up on. That’s basically it.”

Most homeowners don’t keep track of product serial numbers, so finding common electronic devices once they’re sold at pawn shops and returning them to their owners is nearly impossible.

Rarer items can be easier to find.

Las Vegas police Lt. Robert DuVall said a woman’s necklace was recently found at a pawn shop based only on the woman’s hand drawing of it.

Las Vegas police burglary detectives also must cover the thousands of larceny and vandalism cases each year.

“You talk to these detectives and their caseloads are huge,” Anthony said.

North Las Vegas police have only three burglary detectives, although a new problem solving unit this year will greatly increase the department’s effectiveness, police spokesman Mark Hoyt said.

“For a department our size, that’s pretty much average,” he said.

Higher-profile crimes, such as rapes and murders, receive more attention and resources, and rightly so, Anthony said.

“Property crimes are just hard to solve, and the resources are not there like they are for person crimes,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the beast. You put resources where they’re the most important.”

False impressions

Nevertheless, property crimes affect far more people than any other type of crime. And when victims, who expect personalized treatment, meet with overwhelmed police detectives, the results add to the impression of a neglectful police department, which might not be the case.

UNLV criminal justice professor Bill Sousa, who has done consulting work with the Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York police departments, among others, said victims often expect personalized service.

“Citizens want their possessions back; but really, they want to know that someone’s paying attention to them,” Sousa said.

Television shows have added to a false perception that police can thoroughly investigate every crime.

“When people have things stolen out of their car, there is sort of the expectation, based on watching shows like ‘CSI,’ that you’re going to have a full forensic sweep,” Sousa said. “And the resources just aren’t there for that kind of thing.”

But police philosophy is partly to blame for that perception, Sousa adds.

Since police departments began using 911 systems in the last half of the 20th century for reporting incidents, police sold the idea to the public that crime and managing society’s problems was the business of police, not the business of other agencies, individual communities or society in general.

“Now, they’ve sold that idea so well, that it’s almost become the idea that if something happens, whether it’s a serious crime or a minor disorder, it’s the police’s fault that something isn’t being done about it,” Sousa said.

Anthony said the Las Vegas police internal affairs department receives only a few complaints a year about detectives not doing their job.

Departments, including Las Vegas police, are approaching the burglary problem in a new light through community policing.

In order to boost its clearance rate for burglaries, Las Vegas police have begun dispatching its burglary detectives to its seven area commands. The department will also double its number of burglary detectives.

No longer will those detectives reside in the department’s building at Oakey and Decatur boulevards, sheltered from the communities they cover and out of touch with patrol officers.

The redeployment of detectives, which police are calling the largest such effort in department history, will make those detectives more accessible and accountable to the public, police said.

They’ll also become more effective, police said.

When burglaries are reported, a patrol officer traditionally visits the home and fills out a report, which is later given to a detective. The patrol officer can also decide whether to send an investigator to the home to dust for prints or collect evidence.

But patrol officers and detectives rarely communicate. Putting burglary detectives in area command centers, where patrol officers work out of, will change that. Detectives will be attending the same meetings and work side-by-side with the officers.

“We think this is going to have a dramatic impact on the clearance rates,” Anthony said.

That effort will be too late for Thompson, who said, “I’m so disappointed in this police department.”

Because of his burglary, Thompson said he is selling his home and moving to a different part of town.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0440.

News
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like