BERLIN — A recent rash of residential burglaries in Berlin, including three in the span of eight days and another last weekend, has local residents on edge and law enforcement seeking the public’s help.
The latest, which occurred at a residence on Washington Street sometime last weekend, was particularly troublesome because of the extensive amount of senseless damage the suspect or suspects caused on the property. Last week, Berlin Police issued a plea to local residents to be extra vigilant after three break-ins in eight days. The message was reinforced this week.
“We had three in eight days,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing this week. “Three in a month is the norm, and they’re usually along the lines of a boyfriend trying to break into a girlfriend’s house. This is a little different. This is an individual or group of individuals preying on residences.”
The first in the recent spree occurred on Pitts Street on March 22, followed by a second on Kenwood Court on March 23. The third burglary occurred on Broad Street on March 26, followed by the most recent on Washington Street last weekend.
“They look very similar, but there is no rhyme or reason or any pattern,” he said. “They aren’t occurring in any one set neighborhood, but are more scattered around town.”
Berlin Police, with the assistance of the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI), are actively pursuing leads and processing the crime scenes.
“We don’t have a specific person of interest, but we do have a group we’re keeping an eye on,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing and we’re relying on the public to help. If you see something suspicious, report it to us so we can check it out, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with these burglaries. In one case, we had a report of a suspicious vehicle cruising a neighborhood. That’s the kind of information we need.”
Downing said residents should always contact police if they are going out of town for an extended time, but should do so now more than ever in light of the recent spree of break-ins.
“If they’re going out of town, they should tell the police department,” he said. “We have forms they can fill out that tell us how long they’re going to be away, who has a spare key, when they’re returning, etc. We’ll do property checks and drive by periodically if we know they aren’t home.”
In addition to informing the police department of travel plans, residents are urged to rely on friends, family and neighbors as well.
“Tell your trusted neighbors and friends you’re going away so they can keep an eye on your property, pick up the mail, clear newspapers out of the driveway and things like that,” he said. “They can also turn on lights at different times, or better yet, if they have multiple vehicles, tell them to park one in your driveway from time to time.”
Downing said the advent of social networks such as Facebook has complicated the problem somewhat in recent years and advised local residents to limit the type of information they share.
“You’ll see people posting pictures of their homes and saying look at this new big screen television we got or look at this nice new laptop we got etc.,” he said. “A lot of that information is out there for all to see, including those who might have bad intentions.”
Downing also urged local residents to carefully catalog serial numbers and descriptions of expensive electronics and even take pictures of them so they might be recovered if arrests are made.
“So often, a victim will tell us a diamond necklace was stolen with no more information than that,” he said. “If we have a great description, we have a better chance of recovering it later.”