More housebreaks hit West Boylston.
WEST BOYLSTON - Police are asking residents to report suspicious activity following a string of daytime housebreaks during which some neighbors saw perpetrators on neighbor's property but did not report the incidents.
"We can't stress it enough, if they see something, anything that looks out of place for the time and location, they should call us to check it out," Detective Marcello Tavano said.
Tavano was referring to two recent daytime house breaks in which neighbors suspected something was amiss when they saw strangers at the doors of victim's homes, but did not report what they saw.
On Feb. 7, after a home on Merrimount Road was broken into, neighbors described a white or light-skinned Hispanic male, wearing a dark Boston Red Sox or Bruins sweatshirt and a black backpack as being in the area. The male appeared to be in his late teens or early 20s with slight facial hair.
"Several suspects saw the individual on foot," Tavano said.
On Feb. 17, one witness saw two or three males park a car on Edgewood Drive and walk onto Peachtree Street. On that day, three housebreaks were reported in that area, one on Peachtree Street, one on Oxford Street and one on Longview Avenue.
Those suspects are described as white males, possibly in their early 20s. One was described at thin, around 5-and-a-half feet tall and wearing a baseball hat.
One was described as slightly taller, possibly 5-feet, 8 inches tall, with blond or dirty-blond hair. He was seen wearing a backpack as he exited the Peachtree Street home.
The car is described as a gray or silver Nissan, possibly a Maxima and in good condition.
Home break-ins have plagued Central Massachusetts police in recent years. Many are taking place during daylight hours, when people are at work and school.
"It's a big problem for all of us," Tavano said. "They target similar neighborhoods, but they don't care what town they are in. They hit us one day, then another town the next."
Arrests in the area show that the break-ins vary in some respects. In some cases, it is done by a team, with one person waiting by in a nearby vehicle. Sometimes the person is alone and on foot and hardly suspicious looking.
"They dress according to the neighborhood," Tavano said. "This (suspect) on Merrimount was wearing a Red Sox or Bruins shirt and a backpack. He could have been a student walking to the next neighborhood."
But in some regards they stand out. For instance, the Merrimount break-in took place at 10 a.m. At least one of the witnesses told police, after he crossed paths with the person he did not recognize in front of his own house, he then saw the male on his neighbor's back porch.
The witness on Peachtree Street said one of the suspects walked back and forth in front of her house multiple times.
Once at a target home, the thieves may use different techniques to break in, but they have many similarities; among them, brazenness. On February 7 and 17 in West Boylston, the suspects made eye contact with neighbors, but still committed the crimes.
The area struck by thieves on Feb. 17 is home to many retirees and sees a lot of activity during the day, Tavano said.
"There are a lot of people around during the day in the area and these guys still picked that neighborhood," he said.
Past break-ins give police some idea of their method of operation. In several cases, the thieves will first approach a home without a car in the driveway and knock on the door. If a person answers, they often act lost and ask for directions to a well-known landmark or business in the area.
Some are more sophisticated, like the three students from WPI who looked up students' home addresses, then cased streets close to those neighborhoods. When they came across neighbors or when people answered their doors, they asked for the family by name, thus diverting suspicion.
Where the crimes differ is when no one answers. Sometimes the thieves go to the rear of the home or into attached garages, where they are less likely to be seen breaking in. Sometimes they look for doors or windows left unlocked.
Some dispense with caution.
Last year, one West Boylston resident did not answer the door fast enough and came face to face with a suspect who kicked in the front door. The suspect ultimately fled after a brief scuffle, but not until he attempted to get further into the home.
Tavano said the suspect or suspects on Feb. 17 gained entry to the Oxford Street home through an unlocked door. On Longview Street, access to the home was not gained. The thief smashed a small window near the door, but could not get by a deadbolt.
That, too, emphasizes another similarity among many of the daytime house breaks: They are crimes of opportunity.
The thieves are in and out of homes quickly, Tavano said. They are seeking small items, like cash or jewelry, which can easily be pawned. Once inside a home, they are searching obvious hiding places, like drawers, cabinets and bureaus.
"We don't know why they didn't get into that (Longview) home," Tavano said. "Maybe they felt they had already made too much noise. Maybe they didn't have the time or the tool to get in. But the more you can do to protect your home the better it is.
"Lock your homes. Make a note of where you put stuff and don't hide it in obvious places," he said "Someone who wants to get in will always find a way to get in, but if you can make it harder for them to get in, they may move on."
Tavano said the number one way the public can help police departments is to report anything that looks questionable.
"That's how these guys are getting caught," he said. "Someone sees something that doesn't look right and calls police. Our guys are out there, but they have an entire town to cover.
"We can do all the police work in the world - I can pull fingerprints, we can talk to suspects, but it is hit and miss," he said. "The best way to catch them is to call us. Let us come check these people out. That's all it takes. If they're not doing anything wrong. nothing will happen to them."
West Boylston police can be reached at (508) 835-3100. In an emergency, call 911.