Vicki Webster went to the freezer for chicken and discovered a thief beat her to it.

Webster, a Colorado Springs native, said the detached garage at her home near the Patty Jewett Golf Course was burglarized while she and her husband slept last week.

The burglar or burglars stole about $3,000 worth of goods, including tools her husband inherited from his grandfather, a 'priceless ' tackle box with handmade fishing flies, and a freezer full of meat, she said.

'I went to go pull out chicken for dinner, and it was gone. They had robbed our whole entire freezer of excess meat, ' she said. 'My husband goes, 'We fed them, too?' '

Criminals have been taking a big bite out of other people's property lately.

Property crime in the city of Colorado Springs increased more than 25 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012, according to documents obtained by The Gazette. When compared to the first quarter of 2011, the increase is 31 percent.

Drugs may be partly to blame, police said.

'Many of the suspects they've arrested are previous offenders, ' police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said in an email. 'Some people who are addicted to drugs will commit a multitude of various types of crimes to subsidize their drug habit. '

The biggest quarter-over-quarter Colorado Springs property crime increase so far in 2013 - 70 percent - was in motor vehicle thefts.

Police created a Motor Vehicle Theft Task Force at the beginning of the year specifically to tackle the increase, Miller said.

The unit, which includes a sergeant and three officers, partners with other agencies. The unit takes a much more proactive approach to those types of crimes, from monitoring previous offenders to using technology such as license plate readers, she said.

'The MVT Task Force has had a significant impact on these crimes, ' she said.

Miller said police meet regularly to discuss approaches to crime, especially property crime, and use computer analysis to determine where to put more resources. The police department is also using 'Directed Activity Cars. '

'Patrol officers are assigned to respond to calls that are dispatched during their shift. When extra units are available, they are assigned to 'Directed Patrol,' ' Miller said.

'For instance, if we've witnessed a spike in residential burglaries, Directed Patrol units would not answer any 'calls for service' but rather they would strategically work a designated area to look for suspicious people or activity in those areas where we've had an increase, ' she said.

Gold Hill's community service officers, who respond to non-emergency calls to free up uniformed officers, make their presence known at hot spots, especially trailheads where more vehicle crimes tend to occur, Miller said.

'Even though CSO's may be working on a report that occurred elsewhere, they go to areas such as Garden of the Gods to sit in parking lots to complete the reports because the marked unit acts as a deterrent, ' she said.

Property crime happens citywide, but motor vehicle burglaries occur at a higher rate in places where vehicles tend to be parked for an extended period of time, she said. A couple of churches were targeted this year, she said.

'The suspect knows when the church service begins and that it is roughly an hour long, so this provides him ample time to break in and steal valuables or locate the registration and go to their home to burglarize it, ' she said.

Webster, whose garage was burglarized last week, said she and her husband think they know who committed the crime, but they can't prove it. Webster said they looked for their belongings in pawn shops along Platte Avenue. They didn't find anything and have come to terms with never seeing their stuff again.

'We were mad at first. Then we went to a depressed state of mind. And now we're just drinking heavily, ' she said, jokingly.


Contact Daniel ChacOn: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon