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Area burglary spree investigated by state and local police

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August 23, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — State and local police are working together to solve a series of recent break-ins in New Haven, Middlebury and Bristol, during which thieves have been particularly keen on pilfering small safes and cash boxes.

Vermont State Police Lt. Thomas Noble confirmed two recent cases at homes on River Road and North Street in which safes were stolen from homes in the New Haven area. Noble said there have been four residential burglaries in Bristol involving stolen safes since the beginning of August. Those burglaries have occurred on Lower Notch Road, Rounds Road and Cove Road.

Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley reported six burglaries in his community since March, primarily in the Cobble Road, Munger Street and Case Street/Route 116 areas. Most recently, on Aug. 19, Middlebury police investigated a break-in at a Munger Street home during which a small safe, among other things, was stolen.

Many of these break-ins have apparently occurred during the day, while residents were at their jobs. Authorities surmise the thieves may be looking for quick cash to finance a drug habit.

“Daytime burglaries where people are looking for something to be disposed of quickly is consistent with a substance abuse problem,” said Hanley.

The break-ins have left residents in the three towns — particularly those in more remote areas with children and/or elderly family members — particularly concerned about the brazen tactics of the criminals.

“It’s disconcerting,” said New Haven resident Gail Freidin, who lives in one of the neighborhoods that has been targeted. “There has been a lot more (criminal) activity than people in my neighborhood have been accustomed to.”

Some New Haven residents have been talking about establishing a Neighborhood Watch program in response to the recent wave of burglaries. Area police are also comparing notes on the crimes.

“We are going to be doing some cooperative work to get a handle on this,” Noble said.

While Noble noted that most burglars are not prone to entering homes when people are there — especially during the day — he said there are some basic steps people can take to protect themselves from break-ins. Those steps include:

• Locking your home when you leave, even if it is just for a short while.

• Installing alarm/security systems. If those are beyond your family’s budget, installing motion detectors or timed lighting systems can be a deterrent for nighttime prowlers.

• Making sure that your residential answering machine message does not include references about when you will be back, or how long you will be away.

• Making note of the license plate numbers of any unfamiliar vehicles that may be parked along the road in your neighborhood during the day. These could be people “casing” local homes for future burglaries.

• Not allowing strangers to come inside to make a phone call or use the bathroom. Again, these people may be trying to get a glimpse of any valuables to grab either on the spot, or during a future break-in.

• Not depending on small safes in which to store household valuables. Such safes often do little more than give thieves an opportunity for “one-stop shopping.”

“If you have a safe and it weighs 80 pounds to 100 pounds, it’s portable,” Hanley said. A safe becomes effective when it is too large to carry and/or it is structurally embedded within the home, Hanley noted.

Police are anxious to hear from residents with any tips that might help solve the recent burglary spree. Anyone with information can call Middlebury police at 399-3191, or Vermont State Police at 388-4919.

In the meantime, authorities pledged to be vigilant and step up patrols in what have been problem areas.

In other local crime news, Lincoln Constable Mark Truax reported a recent spate of mailboxes vandalisms and two cases in which a man, posing as a “salesman of educational material” walked out of homes with some cash.

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