Car thefts and attempted business break-ins are among activities in the lakes area that should serve as a reminder to not make it easy for opportunistic crooks.

In the small town of Pine River, there may be thefts and there may be the occasional burglary, but one thing that doesn't seem to happen often in town is car theft.

“It's not that common,” said Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand.

Imagine the surprise at Pine River Family Market when not one, but two vehicles were stolen in just over a month. One vanished May 3 while the other followed on June 8. Fortunately, both were recovered.

“One was located in St. Cloud and the other was located at the suspect's residence,” Sand said.

It appears the thefts were not connected. Different, unrelated suspects were arrested for the thefts, which appear to have been impromptu thefts of convenience. Both vehicles were unattended, unlocked and had the keys inside.

That proves the importance of keeping property secure.

“When it comes down to it, it's just securing your vehicle when you get out of it. I do understand that at times everybody gets out and leaves the keys in it running or whatever, but please lock your vehicle up, or better yet, take your keys out," Sand said.

Perry Schriber, who owned the vehicle found in St. Cloud, was working at the Family Market when his SUV was stolen. When he noticed the vehicle missing during his lunch break, he didn't believe it was really gone.

“I was mad,” Schriber said. “I thought one of the kids was playing with me and they just moved it to Dairy Queen or something like that. I went wandering around town to see if I could find it, so I didn't actually call the police until probably 4:30 p.m. or so.”

The vehicle contents had been stolen and it was impounded, meaning it cost Schriber money not only to drive to retrieve it, but to get it out of impound.

He said an issue with his vehicle prevented him from removing the keys at the time, but he hopes others will use his experience as a reminder to be cautious.

“The biggest thing is, lock your vehicle and keep the keys out of it,” Schriber said. “Be vigilant and pay attention to what's going on around you.”

That caution should not be limited to vehicles. Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said there has not been an abnormal increase in thefts across the county; however, there is buzz throughout the community to show that thieves are currently active. Someone damaged a security camera and attempted to force entry at the Corner Store Restaurant and Gun Shop in Backus on two nights between June 19-21.

In Pine River, surveillance at another Main Street business caught a group of individuals helping themselves to the inventory inside. The owner preferred not to comment at this time; however, the suspects were identified with help of Facebook.

While not all crimes can be prevented, these serve as a reminder of the importance of locking doors, keeping windows secure and keeping valuable property stored in secure locations.

“It's one thing if you have neighbors that are very good and they watch your property,” Sand said. “But sometimes, leave stuff sit out and it might be there for days. If you don't want anyone to steal it, why would you let it sit out? For your vehicle, why would you leave your keys in the vehicle? Take them with you. I don't know a simpler way to do it. If you don't want it stolen, protect it. You don't leave your wallet out, you put it in your pocket - and vehicles are the same way.”

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.