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Inside a crime scene

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Thumbnail image for katie.jpgYesterday, I walked through a crime scene.

This is not altogether unusual for reporters, as we often respond shortly after police and paramedics to places where car accidents, shootings and other nefarious activities have taken place.

Yesterday, however, the crime scene was in The Courier-News office.

My work day started about 8 a.m. at Elgin Branch Court. Bond court went quickly, and soon I was in my car and headed for the office. I turned "Viv," my 2005 Pontiac, onto Lake Street and headed up the hill toward the office like usual. Then, I noticed something strange.

There were two police squad cars and an evidence van parked in front of 300 Lake Street -- The Courier-News building.

My first thought was that our editor Paul Harth or cops reporter Steve Johnson was interviewing members of the police department for an editorial or news story. (One morning last spring I arrived to work to find about a dozen taxi cabs in our parking lot and parked around the building because Steve was writing a story about cab drivers in the city.)

Curiosity piqued, I parked Viv in her usual spot, crossed the street and walked to the building. To my surprise, the first thing I saw once inside was an Elgin police officer covering the front desk with dark fingerprint powder.

I quickly learned The Courier-News was burglarized over the weekend. Now this was interesting!

The details of the crime, after the jump.

Carmen Burnham, our office manager, had called the cops that morning to report cash had been taken from the register in the front of The Courier-News newsroom. The burglary had occurred sometime between 5 p.m. on Friday and Monday morning, the doors to the building hadn't been forced and apparently less than $100 was missing.

Oh, and the most interesting detail... no doors appeared to have been forced! The crime was apparently an "inside job."

The rest of the morning was filled with chatter about the security cameras and jokes about which of us was most likely to have a secret life of crime. Also funny, we thought, was the fact that although the downstairs part of the building had been rummaged through for valuables, the upstairs where the reporters' desks are located was not touched. (I guess there is a positive to desk clutter: It deters crime?)

Adding to the excitement of the morning was the opportunity to get fingerprinted. Well, it wasn't really an opportunity -- more of a requirement. Reporters Gloria Carr, Dave Gathman and I all had worked over the weekend, and our prints were taken for elimination purposes, police said.

Fingerprinting, I discovered, happens a whole lot like it appears in the movies. There is an ink pad, paper and a nice police officer who rolls your finger around to make the impressions. An unsuspected highlight of this process, though, was learning that our very own Dave Gathman has appeared in a police lineup before! An experience perhaps he will share in an upcoming Between the Bylines post (hint, hint, Dave!).

The police were out of the building by about 1 p.m., and things are back to usual. We'll keep you posted on the burglary as updates become available.

In the meantime, though, I'm wondering, just how unique was my experience? If any of you, dear readers, ever have headed to work like normal and wound up walking through a crime scene on the way to your desk, I'd love to hear about it! E-mail your stories or comment below.

-- Katie Anderson, Staff Writer

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Having grown up in Elgin, but living in Houston, Texas lo these many, many years, this story makes me miss Elgin even more than before.

The PD actually sent out officers, dusted for prints, and took statements for a burglary with less than $100 missing?!?!?!

Houston police don't even do that for felony amounts unless there are guns stolen, someone was hurt or killed, or the victims are important or particularly wealthy. Even then, they would just send one officer to take statements (maybe a day later) and there's no way they'd do fingerprints. (They'd just lose them anyway, but that's another story.)

I know Elgin has changed since I left in the late 1970s, but it's still special. Cherish your city-- it's really special.

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