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Man charged in alleged Park Rapids burglaries

A holiday house invasion in an upscale Park Rapids neighborhood should serve as a wake-up call to homeowners.

Why? The burglar gained access to the locked house by sliding a plastic credit card into the door.

“It’s kind of hard to believe,” Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes said, admitting that was the way he’d enter his childhood home when he got locked out. But in a day of computerized security, he thought that particular pre-Christmas access should serve as a warning to others.

Nicholas Quinn, 26, was almost caught in the act on the night of Dec. 22 when some Park Rapids homeowners caught a burglar inside the cabin they’d planned on spending the holidays in.

According to police, Quinn fled out a back door, jumped off a 12-foot balcony, got into his Jeep parked in the driveway and tried to escape down a dead-end street.

When he had to turn around, the homeowner’s son confronted him.

Quinn, who may have been intoxicated at the time, explained that he was cold and had run out of gas.

The son observed that the Jeep’s gas gauge was full at the time.

Two nights later police stopped the Jeep. The woman driving it told them it belonged to her boyfriend Quinn.

Officers, upon interviewing Quinn prior to his arrest, learned that the planned heist was a piece of cake.

Never leave home without your American Express card, as the saying goes.

The only hitch in the plan was the family arriving home during the break-in.

Quinn had been looking around the house for items to steal, the criminal complaint indicated, and was in the process of removing a gun when the homeowners arrived, prompting his daring escape.

Quinn was taken into custody on Christmas Eve. He’s been arraigned on a charge of First Degree Burglary, a felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a $35,000 fine.

Ken Davis, owner of United Security & Alarm System, said homeowners should check their door locks and change them if they’re prone to being pried open easily.

But installing door locks is “definitely not a do-it-yourself project,” Davis warned. Experienced professionals should be called to position the door and install a lock.

He said when Ken Smith of Ken’s Lock & Key gets done adjusting a door, “You don’t need anything but a good lock” because the adjustment work is so perfect.

One trend Davis is seeing – and catering to – involves using relatively inexpensive hunting cameras for security.

Trail cams cost around $150 and don’t need power sources to plug into, Davis said.

His shop is currently making a line of birdhouses to conceal such cameras so they can’t be detected.

He advises purchasing more than one. Moving a single camera around can keep potential burglars guessing which house holds a camera and which one holds a nest of birds. The houses are dual-functioning.

Aukes said his office is monitoring burglary rings in other counties to find a nexus, but “we haven’t cleared any of our cases yet.”

Beltrami County authorities got lucky last weekend when three burglary suspects were caught in the act by Mahnomen County authorities. The trio was also   implicated in break-ins in Clearwater County.

The three were arrested Jan. 4 after an all-points bulletin had been issued for the Toyota Tundra they were allegedly driving. The Tundra has been linked to burglaries in Beltrami and Cass Counties.

Joshua James Martin, 29, and Jeremy Jay Martin, 25, both of Walker, and Jasmine Lee Bellcourt, 19, of Cass Lake, were charged.

Items from a Clearwater burglary were found, Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said.

Beltrami and Cass County authorities then executed a search warrant in Walker and recovered stolen items from burglaries in three counties.

A mountain of evidence was seized from the Walker home.A previous Cass County burglary ring had ties to Hubbard County because some of the members lived here, Aukes said.

But other than one case of possession of stolen property, Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he couldn’t definitively link the group to Hubbard County burglaries.

Aukes believes location, location, location is the key. The high population of seasonal residents makes cabins shut over the winter a particular target for thieves, Aukes believes.

But such crimes seem to cycle, he added.

“Some years we get hit very hard,” he said. “The next year they’re (burglaries) down.”

Both he and Davis suggest shoring up the entrances to your home to ward off a break-in.

But you can always take up a birding hobby, Davis said. Three or four strategically positioned birdhouses near a home entrance can capture the moment an intruder visits.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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