The thieves got into the garages by prying the doors, breaking windows or just turning the knob on doors left unlocked. Thirty-eight garage burglaries happened in a single week this month in southwest Minneapolis, and thieves typically left with only one kind of loot: high-end bicycles, Minneapolis police said this week.

In nearly half of the burglaries in the Fifth Precinct between July 16 and Monday, the burglars got into the garage because the door was left open or unlocked. Among the victims were Ashley Trepp and her husband.

She said they normally lock their garage, but they forgot to do so on Sunday after a day of yard work and going in and out of the house.

When they went into the garage the next morning, they discovered that someone had stolen their three bikes and rummaged through their two cars, taking some loose change. Trepp estimated that the bikes and the change added up to $1,300 in losses.

Trepp said she didn't have serial numbers for the bikes. Just as they do for electronics, police can enter these serial numbers into local and national databases to find them and in some cases return them to their owners.

'Opportunity' crimes

For the most part, these sorts of burglaries are "opportunity" crimes, said Sgt. Steve McCarty, a police spokesman. Thieves go from garage to garage, checking for open doors.

Margaret Conroy, whose two mountain bikes were stolen over the weekend while she was on vacation, said she suspects this is what the thieves did in her neighborhood.

Although Conroy's door was locked, someone could easily have looked in and seen an empty garage with multiple bikes hanging on the wall.

"It didn't even cross our minds when we left town that we would have to worry about that," she said.

She said she believes the thieves were looking for high-end bikes because they left behind other valuables in the garage. They also abandoned one of her bikes and two others that weren't hers on her lawn.

Officers from the Fifth Precinct have arrested several people in connection to some garage burglaries. A man turned himself in after a neighbor's surveillance camera showed him prying open a garage door in the 2400 block of Aldrich Avenue S. and putting a mountain bike into the trunk of a car on July 18.

The same day, a woman's bike was stolen in the 1900 block of James Avenue S. The woman saw her bike for sale on Craigslist and verified its serial number. When a man tried to sell the bike to the victim, Bloomington police arrested him, according to Fifth Precinct police.

Besides keeping track of serial numbers of garage items, police recommend people lock overhead and service doors, even while working in the yard. They also suggest changing locks to a deadbolt.

If something suspicious does happen, they advise getting license plate numbers and descriptions of cars.

Conroy said she had a deadbolt on her garage, but police told her there were ways to make it more secure.

"We're probably going to follow some of those recommendations as we go," she said.

Masako Hirsch • 612-673-426