OTTUMWA — Lock your car. Take your keys. Lock the garage or shed, too.

If you don’t, an addict may take your keys, car, and anything else that’s marketable.

In July 2005, new legislation put products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter at pharmacies and other retailers. The drug is one of the ingredients needed to make methamphetamine.

That need for meth makers and users, however, has meant an increase in another type of criminal activity.

By November of 2005, the number of burglaries in Ottumwa began to rise and has not stopped. So far, the south side of the city has been hit the hardest.

“But, now the north side is getting hit,” said Sgt. Mick Hucks of the Ottumwa Police Department. He declined, however, to say exactly how many reported burglaries have been committed over the past several months.

Law enforcement intelligence indicates the drug users are stealing a lot of tools and equipment, hoping to sell enough to buy imported drugs.

“It’s a statewide trend,” said Sgt. Tom McAndrew of the Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force.

Hucks said his detectives have been tracking separate groups of individuals. They’ve been on many stakeouts between midnight and 6 a.m., when most of the burglaries occur.

“Now we need help from citizens,” he said. “We’ve had a rash of burglaries to garages and sheds. They’re looking for tools or cash and they aren’t going into houses.”

Hucks said some people leave keys in their vehicles and don’t lock their garages.

“The thieves will take anything they can sell. We still have vehicles that are missing,” he added. “We need a break in these cases and are requesting help from the public.”

Hucks suggested citizens use deadbolts wherever possible. Any kind of locking system that makes a lot of noise when you’re trying break in would be helpful. Security lights are good and motion-sensitive detectors are the best, he said.

If you see someone moving around in your yard or near your garage or shed, call 9-1-1.

“Don’t go outside,” Hucks said. “Stay on the phone with the dispatcher and be a great witness. Describe what you see. Describe clothing. Use binoculars. Immediate information is helpful for the officers and the more information, the better.”

Neighbors need to talk to neighbors about what’s going on in the area. Hucks said people should watch for the marks of bicycle tires or footprints in the mud because the suspects aren’t using cars only.

“They’re walking from place to place and noting which places look good,” Hucks said.

He also urged people to write down the serial and model numbers for tools, equipment, or other items stored in garages or sheds. Keep those numbers in a safe place, he added.

Pets can also be “good burglary devices,” especially dogs.

“When you hear a dog barking during the night, something is out there,” Hucks said. “And, keep things out of sight. If nothing is visible, then it’s not interesting to a thief.”

Hucks asked members of the public “to keep their eyes open.”

“If you notice someone who suddenly has a lot of tools, please call us,” he said. “We listen to all tips.”

Cindy Toopes can be reached at (641) 683-5376 or via e-mail at

Those who have information about local burglaries in the city are asked to call the Ottumwa Police Department at (641) 683-0661.


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