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Vandals hit west end of Cloquet

Cloquet Police officers are requesting help from the community to find anyone involved in a three-night spree of vehicle theft and damage in the historic west end district of Cloquet last week.

Cloquet Police officers are requesting help from the community to find anyone involved in a three-night spree of vehicle theft and damage in the historic west end district of Cloquet last week.

Starting Thursday evening and continuing through Saturday night, vehicle windows were smashed, property inside vehicles was stolen, garages were broken into, and stolen items were burned, according to Darrin Berg, Cloquet police detective.

The area of focus reportedly was mostly between Park Avenue near the softball fields to Avenue B, and down by the Chief Theater.

"In total we had about 18 calls and the individual or individuals caused a lot of damage," he said. "I don't have a dollar amount but it's at least several thousand dollars."

On Saturday night, three vehicles with keys left in them were reported stolen from the historic west end district. All have since been recovered and returned to the owners.

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"They weren't taken very far," Berg said. Other vehicles were moved in what appeared to be an attempt to steal them, according to Berg.

"We found one car pushed up against another one," he said. "In the alley to the west of Arch Avenue, a guy's truck was entered, the keys were in it, and someone attempted to back it up. But because of a safety feature, it was unable to reverse."

Officers also found that some residential yard lights had been disabled and some items in yards were damaged.

"It looks to me as though it's people going around causing damage based on what they saw," he said.

He said three iPods and numerous CDs were stolen out of vehicles.

"It seems someone was targeting open vehicles even though they did break out windows if they saw something valuable," said Berg.

Berg said he believes the same individual or individuals participated in the vandalism binge. Officers spent much of the day on Friday interviewing victims and other area residents.

"We have a few leads, but could use more information," Berg said.

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Of the approximately 12 vehicles reportedly damaged, many were scratched with what appeared to be a knife, and in the back seat of one vehicle, a small fire had been started.

A gas can was stolen from a residence, and another fire was started on Avenue C in a residential area a few blocks west of Robert's Furniture, according to Berg. Burned items such as duffle bags, backpacks and electronics that had been stolen from vehicles were found there.

In what could be a related incident on Sunday at 9 p.m., Cloquet police reportedly received a call about people breaking into vehicles near Larson Commons on the 200 block of Eighth Street. Officers apprehended two juveniles inside a vehicle, Berg said.

It is unknown whether the incidents are connected and that case is also still under investigation. No other similar activity in either area has occurred since then, according to Berg.

Officers are patrolling the area more extensively.

Berg recommends that people keep garage doors and vehicle doors locked.

"Leaving keys in vehicles is also asking for trouble," he said.

Berg estimated that similar vandalism occurs once or twice per year.

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There is a $500 reward for information leading to any arrests and anyone who calls can remain anonymous.

"We'd like to get as much information as possible and we're just hoping somebody comes forward," Berg said. "This is solvable with the help of the community."

Anyone with information can call Darrin Berg at the Cloquet Police Department at 879-1247.

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