MARSHALL - "We just never thought it was going to happen to us," Catherine Hofstetter said.
Hofstetter and her husband, Michael, had returned to their home on Summit Street after attending the Marshall football game at Luverne on Wednesday night, when Catherine said she noticed something wasn't quite right.
"When we walked in the hall, I saw our teenage son's bedroom door was open," but he hadn't arrived home yet, she said. In the bedroom, drawers had been pulled out. Cash and other items had been stolen from around the house.
That same night, Marshall resident Liz Struve said she and her husband, Mike, found a similar scene at their home on Horizon Drive.
"They concentrated on the master bedroom. They went through all the drawers," Struve said. "My wedding ring was taken."
"It makes you feel violated," Hofstetter said.
A rash of residential burglaries this week has been the latest in a string of incidents around Marshall. Six burglary incidents were reported Tuesday alone, a few months after a spike in burglaries this summer.
Local residents said Thursday the trend was unsettling, and the Marshall Police Department is urging the public to take precautions and report suspicious activity.
"We're looking for people to be eyes and ears," said Marshall Police Chief Rob Yant.
"Look for people who look like they don't belong in the neighborhood," he said. "If a car comes along, do they look apprehensive or try to get out of sight? Are they out at an odd time of day?"
Yant said police have some possible suspects in recent burglaries, but the investigations are ongoing. The burglaries do not appear to be the work of a professional, he said, but that doesn't rule out some level of organization in the incidents.
Hofstetter and Struve said they would be making sure to lock their doors from now on. Struve said her family would probably be getting a security system. One of the worst things about the burglaries was losing the feeling of safety in their homes, they said.
"That's part of the reason you choose to live in a community this size, so you don't have to go through these things," Struve said. "I can't believe how daring (the burglars) are, whoever they are."
Struve and Hofstetter said they had heard other Marshall residents also had their homes burglarized while they were attending athletic events. Yant said it's difficult to know for certain if there's a connection between recent burglaries and specific events like athletic games. However, he said the risk of burglary is higher when people are away from their homes.
While some residents may choose to get new locks or install a security system at their homes, "We urge people to help us by using the locks they've got," Yant said. Residents should also consider leaving lights or the radio on, or asking a neighbor to check on their house if they're away from home. Yant said residents can request Marshall Police make extra drive-by patrols if they're away. He said police can also make checks on a residence during longer absences. The service carries a minimum cost of $30 for three checks.
Reporting suspicious activity or people immediately is crucial to helping stop or prevent burglaries, Yant said. He said there have been instances where local residents waited until after a burglary had taken place in their neighborhoods to say they saw something suspicious. He said it's also important for people who suspect their home has been broken into or entered to call police right away, both for safety and investigative reasons.
"It's hugely frustrating to us to have this happen," Yant said of the rash of burglaries. He said Marshall Police have been making extra patrols in response to the incidents.
Yant said there is a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects in the recent burglaries.
Some Marshall residents are taking steps to try to stop burglaries in their neighborhood. After multiple burglaries in the area around Viking Drive - including at her family's home on David Drive - Lisa Macchio said she started asking about forming a neighborhood watch.
"I thought, maybe this was something we should do," Macchio said. The break-ins have made people feel less safe, and she was concerned events might escalate. "I don't want someone to get hurt."
Macchio approached Yant about forming a watch group, and a meeting is being organized for residents in the Viking Drive area. It's a close-knit neighborhood, she said, so hopefully residents will be able to work together to make it safer. Macchio said she also hoped the meeting would be a chance for neighbors to get more information on the burglary incidents.
"There's just so much speculation going on as to the whos and the whys," she said.
Yant said the Marshall Police Department is willing to work with people who want to organize neighborhood watch groups.
"This is something we've tried to promote," through events like the National Night Out, he said. "Unfortunately, sometimes it takes events like this (for people) to move that up as a priority."