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Most car crimes are 'crimes of opportunity'

Andy Haga is reflected in the shattered window of his vehicle. His window shows a hole caused by either a BB or a pellet gun. Special to the Pine Journal

A Cloquet resident had an eye-opening experience as he drove to work early one recent morning.

"I was headed towards Scanlon on Carlton Avenue on my way to work," said Andy Haga. "I heard a loud bang and didn't know what happened until I saw the window. I'm glad the windows are tinted so glass didn't go flying everywhere."

Haga's passenger side window had been shot with either a BB or a pellet gun as he sat at the stop sign on Carlton Avenue at 4:10 a.m. Monday, July 31.

It was still dark so Haga couldn't see anybody outside and he was not going to wait and see if there would be a second shot.

"I took off. It scared me," said Haga. "I hadn't even had my first sip of coffee yet."

There was a small hole in the window and Haga later noticed the projectile had also chipped the mirror. Although it was a warm morning, Haga had not opened his windows yet.

"I'm not going to lie — I did feel for blood as I was getting out of there," Haga said.

Cloquet Police Commander Carey Ferrell said it was possible the shooter was not aiming for the vehicle, rather it was a stray projectile and unfortunate timing.

According to Cloquet Police Commander Derek Randall, investigating officers identified three people as possible suspects, including a couple of juveniles, but do not have enough evidence to charge them at this point.

Ferrell said there have been other incidents of windows shot out while vehicles sat in a parking lot a few blocks away last month, but no other reports with people inside the vehicles being targeted.

Reports of other crimes involving vehicles, such as getting egged or prowlers stealing small items left in the car, have been down recently, according to Ferrell. He noted that many traceable items that are stolen are usually recovered sooner or later. A strong deterrent for these types of crimes are motion lights on the house or in the yard, as well as always locking the vehicle and not leaving valuables in the vehicle.

Auto thefts are up this summer. Ferrell notes these have been crimes of opportunity when owners have left the keys in the vehicles. His advice is simple — take your keys out of the vehicle and lock it.

"If you see something suspicious or out of place, call 911," cautioned Ferrell. "Don't wait."