Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Woman dies after being thrown from boat on Cass Lake

Advertisement

City, county rely on grant to solve auto thefts

Email Sign up for Breaking News Alerts
news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A lone fingerprint, found on the underside of a toolbox, proved to be all Mike Mastin needed to arrest someone for stealing a truck.

The evidence left behind by the thief stands out as an example why the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sherriff's Office each dedicate a full-time officer to handle auto vehicle thefts.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Mastin, now the Bemidji police chief, recalls the 2003 case, primarily because he worked as one of the department's first auto theft officers at the time, just after the city began receiving a state grant dedicated to education and prevention of stolen vehicles.

Both agencies again will be able to dedicate full-time officers for auto theft investigations after the renewal of a $304,306 grant, which pays for both officers' salaries for two years.

Mastin said since the agencies started receiving the grants about a decade ago, the number of thefts has gone down and while conviction rates have gone up.

"Without a dedicated person and time to scour the vehicle for evidence, it is tough to solve" many auto theft cases, Mastin said Wednesday. "Without that funding, we would not be able to provide the time to investigate auto thefts the way we do."

The recent grant is among 21 awarded to law enforcement recipients across the state. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is partnering with local agencies, county attorneys and community organizations as part of the $3.8 million program.

The program aims to identify critical law enforcement issues, provide auto theft education for officers and citizens, aide the investigation and prosecution of auto theft suspects, prevent auto theft and foster collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

"Every year, auto theft impacts the lives and finances of thousands of Minnesotans, and steals from wallets of every consumer in the form of higher insurance premiums," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said.

"Advancements in auto security features on new vehicles are critically important, and have helped reduce auto theft over time," he said. "But the most important defenses we have against auto theft are the knowledge, prevention, and partnerships that are made possible, in part, by this proven program."

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, about 23 cars were stolen every day in Minnesota during 2010.

The state's 2010 Uniform Crime Report shows nearly 8,400 vehicles, with a value of more than $21.3 million, were stolen in Minnesota that year.

Among the recipients, Bemidji's department will receive the third most dollars. Hennepin County and St. Paul Police Department received larger grant amounts.

Other recipients include departments in Duluth, Mille Lacs County, several state agencies and the Twin Cities area.

The 2010 report also showed:

E 1,268 of the 8,398 auto thefts - about 15.1 percent - were cleared by arrest

E The percentage of auto theft cases cleared by arrest was higher in both Bemidji (46.4 percent) and Beltrami County (28.6 percent) than the state average

E In Bemidji, there were 28 auto thefts reported, and officers arrested suspects in 13 of the cases

E Beltrami County had 42 stolen vehicle reports in 2010, and 12 were cleared by arrest

E 4,155 vehicles stolen in Minnesota were recovered, and another 475 vehicles stolen elsewhere were found

When he worked as an auto theft investigator, Mastin said there was about one stolen vehicle every two days, a rate even higher than the Twin Cities metro area. The number has gone down, in part, to the grant paying for full-time investigators locally, he said.

Another contributing factor to the decline is a local ordinance prohibiting vehicle owners from leaving keys in vehicles while they're turned on.

"For years, it was a crime of opportunity," Mastin said. "People would look for a ride from point A to point B... It's more like a convenience-type theft."

A lone fingerprint, found on the underside of a toolbox, proved to be all Mike Mastin needed to arrest someone for stealing a truck.

The evidence left behind by the thief stands out as an example why the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sherriff's Office each dedicate a full-time officer to handle auto vehicle thefts.

Mastin, now the Bemidji police chief, recalls the 2003 case, primarily because he worked as one of the department's first auto theft officers at the time, just after the city began receiving a state grant dedicated to education and prevention of stolen vehicles.

Both agencies again will be able to dedicate full-time officers for auto theft investigations after the renewal of a $304,306 grant, which pays for both officers' salaries for two years.

Mastin said since the agencies started receiving the grants about a decade ago, the number of thefts has gone down and while conviction rates have gone up.

"Without a dedicated person and time to scour the vehicle for evidence, it is tough to solve" many auto theft cases, Mastin said Wednesday. "Without that funding, we would not be able to provide the time to investigate auto thefts the way we do."

The recent grant is among 21 awarded to law enforcement recipients across the state. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is partnering with local agencies, county attorneys and community organizations as part of the $3.8 million program.

The program aims to identify critical law enforcement issues, provide auto theft education for officers and citizens, aide the investigation and prosecution of auto theft suspects, prevent auto theft and foster collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

"Every year, auto theft impacts the lives and finances of thousands of Minnesotans, and steals from wallets of every consumer in the form of higher insurance premiums," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said.

"Advancements in auto security features on new vehicles are critically important, and have helped reduce auto theft over time," he said. "But the most important defenses we have against auto theft are the knowledge, prevention, and partnerships that are made possible, in part, by this proven program."

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, about 23 cars were stolen every day in Minnesota during 2010.

The state's 2010 Uniform Crime Report shows nearly 8,400 vehicles, with a value of more than $21.3 million, were stolen in Minnesota that year.

Among the recipients, Bemidji's department will receive the third most dollars. Hennepin County and St. Paul Police Department received larger grant amounts.

Other recipients include departments in Duluth, Mille Lacs County, several state agencies and the Twin Cities area.

The 2010 report also showed:

- 1,268 of the 8,398 auto thefts - about 15.1 percent - were cleared by arrest

- The percentage of auto theft cases cleared by arrest was higher in both Bemidji (46.4 percent) and Beltrami County (28.6 percent) than the state average

- In Bemidji, there were 28 auto thefts reported, and officers arrested suspects in 13 of the cases

- Beltrami County had 42 stolen vehicle reports in 2010, and 12 were cleared by arrest

- 4,155 vehicles stolen in Minnesota were recovered, and another 475 vehicles stolen elsewhere were found

When he worked as an auto theft investigator, Mastin said there was about one stolen vehicle every two days, a rate even higher than the Twin Cities metro area. The number has gone down, in part, to the grant paying for full-time investigators locally, he said.

Another contributing factor to the decline is a local ordinance prohibiting vehicle owners from leaving keys in vehicles while they're turned on.

"For years, it was a crime of opportunity," Mastin said. "People would look for a ride from point A to point B... It's more like a convenience-type theft."

Advertisement
Steve Wagner
Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and swagner@gfherald.com. He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several newsroom roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and cops/court reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His experience includes extensive reporting related to Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with projects about immigration, the fatal 2002 train derailment in Minot, N.D., and the 20th anniversary of Gordon Kahl's massacre of U.S. marshals. Wagner also worked as a reporter at newspapers in the Twin Cities and Iowa. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.
(701) 780-1104
Advertisement
Advertisement