Tammy Rosengren isn't sleeping very well these days after an encounter with burglars who got into her garage and nearly into her Chaska home.
Rosengren heard her service door open about 1 a.m. on May 24. A man in his late teens or early 20s shining a flashlight was trying to enter her house and two others of the same age were right behind him.
"There is no way somebody is trying to get in," she recalled thinking. But they were. "I yanked the door out of his hand," she said. "They ran off."
The thieves got some loose change and a garage door opener from an unlocked vehicle in the driveway — a minor loss. But the encounter has left her and her neighbors unsettled.
"I'm still on edge," she said. "I hate opening the door for fear somebody is out there."
Since then, Rosengren leaves lights on, no longer leaves garage door openers in vehicles and her service door is locked 24/7. She opens the garage door only with an app and is researching security systems. Some of her neighbors are doing the same things.
Those are steps law enforcement across the Twin Cities metro area is urging residents to take as teams of burglars continue to enter homes while people are sleeping and make off with cars, electronics and other valuables.
The latest in a string of thefts occurred Wednesday night to Thursday morning in the southwest metro suburb of Victoria, where more than a dozen victims in neighborhoods off Hwy. 5 reported that items were taken, including two vehicles, wallets, purses and electronics, said Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud.
The suspects have also used victims' stolen credit cards to make purchases, he said.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Tamera Froemming said the burglaries were likely related to those reported in at least nine other metro communities, including Big Lake, Plymouth, Bloomington, Eagan, Buffalo and Otsego.
In nearly all cases, criminals have entered unlocked vehicles to steal garage door openers, which then allow them to enter unlocked homes. In some cases thieves have stolen vehicles with keys left in the ignition, police said.
They also have entered houses through unlocked service doors, Kamerud said.
The string of burglaries has residents "scared and concerned for their safety," the sheriff said.
No one has been hurt, but police worry that sooner or later there could be a burglary that gets worse.
"At some point there will be a confrontation," said Gary Kroells, chief of the West Hennepin Public Safety, which serves Maple Plain and Independence. "That is the last thing we want to see and that a homeowner wants to go through."
Kroells said the best way for people to protect themselves is to lock everything up. "They are not kicking down doors or breaking windows," he said. "They are entering places that are unlocked."
As the crime spree has now spread over a couple of weeks, law enforcement has arrested two 18-year-old suspects, Davion Allyn and Brendan Durant.
But they still don't know how many people are involved. While numbers have ranged from 20 to 80, Kroells said search warrants have identified 22 people who may be tied to the thefts.
What's more concerning is that most of the crimes appear to have been committed by juveniles. And the sheer number.
"It's how many and how brash the crimes are," Kroells said. "It's not just looking in cars for loose change, a petty misdemeanor. They are taking cars."