Police gather evidence from a wave of Bristol robberies

BRISTOL — A recent string of Bristol burglaries has many townspeople worried. But there may be something that Bristol Police District residents can do.
Police Chief Kevin Gibbs said the unusual increase in burglaries is perhaps double what it was last year, though he hadn’t yet quantified the change. He pointed to a rising demand for heroin in Bristol and a short-staffed police department as reasons contributing to this increase.
“We’re a lot more reactionary than we used to be. We’re either catching up on stuff that’s happened or taking on new stuff. There’s very little proactive patrol going on,” said Gibbs. “We have one guy out with an injury. We lost a guy to budget cuts (more than a year ago). The two of us (police officers) that are left are covering as much as we can … We’ve got two guys handling the workload of four and now we’re down to two with a little bit of help from part-timers.”
Since the wave of burglaries in September and October, Gibbs said Bristol police have been patrolling more frequently and receiving more assistance from the Vermont State Police (VSP).
Gibbs said it would help the police if victims of burglaries or potential burglaries called immediately after an incident.
“If you see something strange, call us. We almost always have someone on duty or working,” he said.
According to Gibbs, people haven’t been reporting an incident until a day, or in some cases days, after it occurs. He drew from a recent example:
“Somebody happened to be stepping outside their house at 2 a.m. and saw someone cutting through their yard,” he said. “When the citizen heard the person make a noise, the (trespasser) flashlight went out. Rather than calling us, (the citizen) did nothing.”
Recalling another incident, Gibbs said a woman heard a noise downstairs in her home.
“She comes down the stairs, looks, and there’s a person half in the window. The person jumps out, runs and takes off. She calls it in the next day,” he said. “People are seeing things and not calling us. For various reasons they think there’s no (officer) on duty, or we won’t bother.
“I think if people were more alert to their surroundings and reported suspicious persons or circumstances, we’d be running around checking a lot of persons and circumstances, and there’s a lot less paperwork with that than there is with doing a burglary investigation.”
This past month, the police department began unraveling two major crimes from September: the theft of industrial power tools and an armed robbery of about 270 doses of narcotics at the Living Well assisted care home. Gibbs thinks there might be a connection between the two, and he said the Bristol police have made major headway on the power tools case.
On Sept. 15, a 10-inch table saw valued at $400, a compound miter saw valued at $500 and a portable air compressor with hoses valued at $350 were stolen from a North Street workshop.
Then, on Sept. 21, a Kountry Trailer Park resident reported to police that someone had stolen his table saw. He later located it on Liberty Street, but asked the police about similar thefts. Through this conversation, the officer discovered the Kountry Trailer Park resident had purchased the tools stolen from the North Street workshop. The man had reportedly bought the tools from two individuals, unaware that they were stolen.
Police have identified the individuals who sold the saw and are wrapping up the case, Gibbs said. He said he tracked down one person but didn’t have the information on the status of this suspect.
“The other person has not been located, so we’ve requested an arrest warrant,” Gibbs said. While making an arrest in a different case week before last, Gibbs ran into this suspect in the stolen tools case. Since then, Gibbs hasn’t seen man.
The Living Well case, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult, Gibbs said.
On Sept. 29, just after midnight, two men wielding baseball bats reportedly charged into the Maple Street assisted care home and demanded drugs. Gibbs said the two suspects stole approximately 270 doses of narcotics. He described the suspects as white males, 19-20 years old, and  one 6 feet tall and the other 5 feet, 9 inches tall. They wore ski masks, jeans and hooded sweatshirts.
“There are probably about six people that we have as persons of interest. Two of them I’d classify as suspects because they fit the description,” he said, declining to release their names until the investigation is complete. “We haven’t seen those two suspects since the robbery. Also it’s been a bit quieter in the burglary arena since that robbery.”
But pinning down drugs that have been illicitly sold is more complicated than locating stolen hardware, Gibbs said.
“One of the things we’re hearing from everyone who’s talking is that the drugs were gone within days — sold off or used, they were gone,” said Gibbs. “That’s one of the problems you have with a robbery involving drugs or cash. Someone could rob Shaw’s for $900, and tomorrow I could find the person with $900 and I don’t know where the money came from. It’s a lot easier from my perspective to deter stuff like that than to solve stuff like that.”

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