Altona on edge after rash of burglaries

There’s been many sleepless nights in Altona, Ill., after a rash of recent burglaries. Just this weekend, the Knox County Sheriff’s Department took a total of 30 burglary reports in the town. Items were taken from homes, garages and cars, and it’s shaken the close-knit community.

Constance Robinson was asleep on the couch when she heard the front door creak open.

“I just said, ‘Hello!’ and then I heard them go… off the front porch,” said Robinson.

She was home with five kids, in a house lit up by the Christmas tree and a lamp. Her sense of security — shattered.

“Honestly, we’ve owned this house for 10 years and never have ever locked our car doors or our house, and now it’s like clockwork. We’ll even check it a couple times before we head to sleep,” said Robinson.

Altona is a trusting community, where everybody knows everybody else.

“Our town’s only about four streets wide and half a mile long, so people get to know each other,” said Deb Murphy, who moved to Altona just this summer for safety.

Now, it’s a community on edge and up in arms.

“I drove around Sunday night, all night until 4 in the morning, hoping to catch them… sleeping in my clothes, with a bat next to me. Ready to go,” said Troy Voss, who had his wallet stolen.

Residents said the mood shifted about two weeks ago, when things first started going missing — Christmas presents, electronics, spare change, and even Rich Cantrell’s car.

“Everybody’s paranoid, and of course if it happens again, I’m just worried that sooner or later somebody’s going to get hurt. The way the attitude is in town, everybody’s trying to protect themselves with baseball bats, whatever,” said Cantrell.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Department says the best way to protect yourself is simply turning the lock.

“In all instances, except for two, the vehicles or buildings or houses were all unlocked,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Landers.

The Department said it’s investigating leads. In the meantime, though, Altona is upset.

“I think we’re just angry that they took a sense of security from this community,” said Robinson.

Deputies are asking that anyone who saw anything out of the ordinary between Friday and Sunday call Crimestoppers or the Knox County Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Landers can be reached at 309-345-3887, or call Detective Joseph Sims at 309-345-3738.

In addition, Landers advises that residents lock their homes and vehicles, keep security lighting on outside, and keep any valuables out of sight from windows and doors.

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