St. Cloud Mission Impossible: City hall burglar takes to the air ducts

Burglars in the air vents!
Burglars in the air vents!

For weeks the municipal employees in St. Cloud City Hall have been perplexed by a spate of burglaries of their offices.

On December 19 some cell phones went missing from desks, and food mysteriously vanished from office refrigerators.

Officials tightened up security a bit, but then last weekend it happened again, and this time several safes were so badly damaged that they could no longer be opened.

City Hall is open to the public during the day, but locked at night. So how was the burglar getting in?

"Employees found it unnerving," St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis told City Pages. "We didn't know how they were getting in. We didn't know what was going on."

Then, on Tuesday night shortly before closing, employees heard sounds coming from the air vents. The police were notified, and a full sweep of the ventilation system was planned for the next morning.

But as the police were on their way over the next day, an employee startled a tall, skinny guy with a blanket near one of the air ducts. The man fled before police arrived.

An old 1940s schoolhouse that was converted to its current purpose in the 1970s, St. Cloud City Hall has enormous air ducts.

"Some of the intake areas are five feet by five feet," Kleis says. "A person could stand up in some places."

There's no evidence so far that the burglar took anything more than food and phones, but City haHl could have more to offer to criminals of a more ambitious scope, including the plans for every building in the city and private billing data for public utilities.

Kleis says he's taking steps to make sure the burglars can't come back, installing cameras throughout the building to monitor access.

But the only way to fight Hollywood-action-movie-inspired burglary techniques is with Hollywood-action-movie technology. We're recommending retinal scan stations, pressure-sensitive flooring panels, and an impenetrable nest of alarm-system laser beams.

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