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Island victims emerge from crime spree

While Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies continue their hunt for suspects, Bainbridge victims of a recent crime binge are beginning to surface.

So far, mail from three island residences has been recovered in the investigation into a group of methamphetamine users, who sheriff’s detectives believe are responsible for 50 burglaries and more than 100 reports of mail theft and vehicle prowl in the North Kitsap area since last fall.

Bainbridge Detective Christian Hemion, who is investigating related cases on the island, said the suspects probably rifled through mailboxes looking for checks or personal information that could help them steal the identity of victims.

“They’ll go through mailboxes at the end of long, private driveways and see if there’s anything they want,” he said.

In a case reported by a victim on Reitan Road, the suspects allegedly swiped a bank form requesting information on certified deposits. According to a police report the resident had put the mail in her box to be sent sometime in January but it never reached its destination.

Kitsap Sheriff’s deputies found the woman’s missing mail among evidence from the thefts, along with an application for a Starbucks credit card completed with the resident’s forged signature.

Mail from an Agate Point Road resident was seized from the home a suspect arrested in Suquamish. It included sets of checks and loan information.

Hemion said mail from at least one other island residence had been found.

The investigation has not turned up stolen property from island homes, but Hemion said several island burglaries match the time and style of the crime spree.

The thieves generally broke into homes they knew to be vacant and took their time removing items.

It’s uncommon to recover stolen property, especially from older burglaries, Hemion said, because expensive goods like electronics are sold quickly while less desirable are simply dumped.

So far $75,000 worth of stolen goods have been found but over $200,000 has been reported missing in connection with the crimes.

But recently reported burglaries on the island could be the work of suspects still at large, Hemion said.

“There’s no reason to believe they have stopped.”

Sheriff’s deputies have arrested six suspects allegedly involved in the thefts. The suspects are believed to be members of a group of methamphetamine users who have been stealing to pay for drugs.

Last Wednesday a SWAT team was called to a Poulsbo apartment complex to search for a 23-year-old suspect who eluded authorities and is still on the loose.

The Sheriff’s Office has warrants for two other men allegedly involved in the crime spree.

Hemion said more suspects have been identified that the Sheriff’s Office has not found probable for an arrest.

“There are definitely more people involved than they have warrants out for right now,” he said.

Vigilance is the best antidote for preventing these kinds of roving thefts, and islanders shouldn’t hesitate to report suspicious activity Hemion said.

“Know your neighbors, and know who should be in the neighborhood and who shouldn’t,” Hemion said. “That, more than locks and alarms or dogs, will keep them out of your neighborhood, if they know you’re watching.”

Cases of mail and identity theft, highlighted by the crime spree, have become common on the island over the last few years.

Bainbridge Deputy Police Chief Mark Duncan said residents need to be more aware of documents they mail or leave in their homes that could contain personal information.

Locking mailboxes are an increasingly popular option for preventing identity theft he said, and it’s a good habit to shred old documents.

“It’s better to be proactive than reactive,” Duncan said. “If you’re reactive you’ll spend a lot of time defending yourself.”

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Information packets on preventing identity theft are available at the Bainbridge Police station. Call 842-5211 for more information.

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