Lakeville police surprise sleeping man with 3 a.m. reminder to lock his doors

TwinCities.com | June 20, 2008

Troy Molde awoke at 3 a.m. Thursday to police flashlights shining in his face. Two uniformed Lakeville officers were in his bedroom, knocking on the wall to wake him up.

They were there, they said, to warn him to keep his doors closed and locked.

Their surprise visit was part of a public service campaign. Officers had fanned out across the city, leaving notices on doors to remind residents how to prevent thefts by keeping garage doors closed, not leaving valuables in cars and locking windows or doors.

But at Molde's house, they went further.

His two sons, ages 5 and 7, and 5-year-old twin nephews were having a sleepover in the living room. They awoke to find the officers in the house.

"I was violated, but ... I wasn't physically damaged," Molde said of what he considers an invasion of privacy.

The officers told Molde his garage door was open, the TV was on, keys to his truck were left in the ignition and the door to his house was ajar.

Police said the intrusion was justified because the officers' initial door knocks went unanswered. Police went inside to check if anything was wrong, Sgt. Jim Puncochar said.

He said the kids were afraid to wake their dad, so the officers went upstairs.

"It really was suspicious," Puncochar said.

But Molde, 34, said he went upstairs to bed at midnight. Molde didn't shut the garage door, and he remembers leaving the doors to his house closed but unlocked. The kids fell asleep watching TV.

Three hours later, he had police in his bedroom. He immediately thought something was wrong.

"I was just dazed," said the 34-year-old dad. "It's not a safe way of (police) protection."

Puncochar said officers left pamphlets Thursday at eight other houses as a friendly reminder of ways residents can avoid becoming victims of crimes, such as burglary.

"We went there to determine that everyone was safe," Puncochar said.

Officers also leave the messages when checking on a home security alarm or to warn of a law violation they see at the residence. The department began using door hangers a year ago to tackle a rise in burglaries in 2006, Chief Tom Vonhof said at the time.

Police say many crimes originate with open garage doors.

Last month, a 52-year-old Burnsville man was stabbed and left to die in his burning town house after two assailants entered his home at 4:30 a.m. by way of an open garage door.

The suspects, who stole the man's car to escape, entered the garage and home through unlocked doors. Police have not found the assailants.

Leaving a door hanger for residents is a method used by other police departments nationally, Vonhof said. It can help create a police presence.

Lakeville police gave Molde a reminder he won't forget anytime soon.

"I haven't figured out what I should do with it yet," Molde said.

Maricella Miranda can be reached at 651-228-5421.