UPDATED: Terror at the door

DeWayne Bartels
A North Peoria woman, last week, found herself face-to-face with two burglars when they kicked in her front door.

The sound was sudden, loud and startling.

The woman ran from her kitchen to see what was happening. As she approached her front door two men stood in her doorway.

This recent break-in at a North Peoria home has intensified already simmering concerns about a recent rash of break-ins, dating back to May, 5th District councilman Dan Irving and Peoria Police chief Steve Settingsgaard said last week.

These break-ins across far North Peoria have both men scrambling for answers. Irving thinks one part of the answer may be found on Facebook. Settingsgaard added the break-in situation in the 5th District is not as bad as it may appear.

At the door

When her dog got excited Aug. 19, Linda thought a package she was expecting was at her door.

It was anything but.

The 44-year-old North Peoria woman found what was at her front door was terror.

Linda (not her real name) was upstairs in her bedroom when her dog got agitated.

“I went downstairs and started a load of dishes. It was just after 11 a.m. All of a sudden, I heard this God-awful sound. It was like someone had dropped a picture window in my entryway,” Linda said.

“I went into the next room, and there was a black guy standing a couple feet into the entryway. There was another one behind him. I said exactly what first came to mind. ‘What the **** are you doing?’”  

She said the pair turned and ran before she could get a good look at their faces.

“I don’t think they expected anyone to be at home. It happened so fast,” she said.

Police work

As soon as the men fled, Linda said she called 911. The dispatcher stayed on the line with her until the police arrived.

“A lot of people think all cops do is eat doughnuts. The Peoria police were great. They got here in two to three minutes,” Linda said. “They had a K-9. It tracked the two through the grass to my neighbor’s driveway. They said they think a third person was there with a car.”

She described the two she saw as between 18-21, 5-feet-8-inches to 6-feet-tall and wearing dark clothing. Linda said she should have been more vigilant. She had noticed a Cadillac in the neighborhood she did not recognize.

She said neighbors told her later well-dressed African-American men had been trying to sell window cleaner door-to-door in the area. She said her husband told her after the incident two African-American men had been at their home trying to sell window cleaner one day while she was not at home.

Linda said the door-to-door sales effort, prior to her break-in, makes her believe her case is related to many other break-ins in the past 90 days all over North Peoria. She said the police told her a lot of break-ins have occurred between 11 a.m.-noon and 3-4 p.m.

Struggling

“I never thought in my life I’d have to live in a house where I’d have to be afraid of opening a window,” Linda said.

She said she is thankful her child was not at home at the time.

Linda, who lives north of Route 6 on a fairly busy street, said she is still struggling with the idea that someone would break in in broad daylight.

“Did they watch me? Did they watch the house? It’s scary,” Linda said.

A new alarm system has been installed in the home. But, Linda is still uneasy.

“I’ve never felt odd about being home alone before,” Linda said. “But, now, when 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. come around, I kind of come close to panic. I set the alarm.”

The situation has left Linda more than scared. She is also angry.

“My husband and I work for everything we have. We donate to charity. We try to do our part in society,” she said.

“What gives anyone the right to walk into my home? I’d like someone to answer that for me. If they had come up to the door and asked me for something, I’d have given them the shirt off my back. Hopefully, soon, I will be able to sleep through the night. But, I’m not going to hold my breath on that for a little while.”

Official response

Prior to last week’s city council meeting, Irving said he has fielded a good number of calls from his constituents about break-ins.

“People are worked up over crime,” he said.

Irving said he was in the dark about this particular crime until he talked to Linda. Irving said he would like more immediate knowledge of the crime occurring in his district. The answer, he said, may be found on Facebook.

“I’m thinking about putting up a Facebook page to get info out to my constituents and to gather information from them if legal approves it,” Irving said.

Irving talked to corporation counsel Randy Ray about it moments later.

“Randy doesn’t have a problem with it as long as my information is accurate,” he said.

Settingsgaard would like more information about break-ins as well, but he would like suspect information.

“Burglaries are up significantly city-wide from last year. Economics is part of it. The other factor is crime rates were historically low last year. We are getting back to normal levels,” Settingsgaard said.

To drive that point home, Settingsgaard did some research on break-ins in the 5th District.

“The 5th District is made up of Police Districts 15, 16, 17 and 19. I checked the year-to-date statistics and compared them to last year for residence burglary, auto burglary and burglary other (does not include businesses). City-wide, residential burglary is up 2.7 percent. In the 5th District, it is down 4.9 percent. City-wide, auto burglary is up 27 percent, in the 5th District it is up 26 percent. As for the burglary (other) category, city-wide is up 6 percent, the 5th District is down 25 percent,” Settingsgaard said.

“Generally speaking, the 5th District is faring better so far this year than the city is as a whole.”

Settingsgaard said there is no apparent pattern to the North Peoria break-ins. He is not ready to say those going door-to-door selling products are a factor in the break-ins.

Door-to-door salesman were the primary suspects in the eyes of residents of Sommer Place and Chadwick Estates in May when burglaries were plaguing that part of North Peoria.

In June, Peoria Police Captain Mike Scally, who has met with upset North Peoria residents, said he understands the residents suspecting the door-to-door salesmen, but he said they were registered with the city, and left the neighborhood a week before the burglaries. Despite that, Scally said, they were being looked at. Scally said he told the residents what he tells everyone in this circumstance.

“If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, call us,” Scally said. “We’d rather go and check something out 1,000 times and have it be nothing, rather than not get a call and it be something.”

Settingsgaard offered the same line of thought. 

“We are having reports of people going door-to-door in every neighborhood in the city,” he said. “I’m not seeing any pattern.”

Settingsgaard said there is also no surprise in the strong reaction from North Peoria residents to this rash of crime.

“You typically get a stronger response to crime in North Peoria,” he said. “The crime rates are so low there, it’s rare to have a crime like this.”