Island hit by rash of residential burglaries

Island homes have suffered a rash of residential burglaries in recent weeks, Bainbridge police say.

“Earlier this year there was a lot of talk about someone getting into homes, and driving a white Cadillac,” said Bainbridge police Officer Steve Cain. “The same thing is happening again.”

That Cadillac driver and residential burglar was Danielle Baker, who was ultimately apprehended. Since Baker’s arrest on Jan. 18, however, there have been eight other residential burglaries around the island with similar MOs.

In each case, the burglar pried off a window screen or forced open a window to enter the home and made off with small valuables like jewelry, cash, credit cards and checks. Very little damage was done to the home, and the perpetrator appeared to go straight for the bedroom or other areas of the residence most likely to contain valuables. The whole operation probably took only a few minutes, Cain said.

Six of the eight burglaries were committed during the day, and the others early in the evening, suggesting that the perpetrator may have observed the residents leaving. Based on past arrests, police also believe that the burglar may have knocked at the door of homes prior to the crime to determine if anyone was around.

So far, police have been able to determine little about the person or persons responsible. “Little or no evidence is left at the crime scene,” said Cain. “We believe the burglar is probably wearing gloves.” Crimes do not appear to be concentrated in any area of the island or targeted at particular kinds of neighborhoods or homes. “It’s all over,” said Cane.

More burglaries may continue to be discovered as residents notice their valuables are missing. “A lot of jewelry gets taken, “ said Cain, “and not costume jewelry, either; that’s left behind. This is not being done by amateurs.”

Investigation of this kind of crime is made more difficult by the fact that the stolen items are seldom recovered. Police cannot trace sales of jewelry to jewelry stores, which are not required to collect detailed information about the seller, nor can they search entire inventories at pawn shops in hopes of encountering a stolen item. Often items are sold second-hand as part of a drug exchange.

Cain said police have no specific leads in the cases, and are asking island residents for help. Citizens should call 911 if they encounter any unknown persons knocking on their door or if they observe vehicles or people with which they are not familiar at a neighbor’s home when they know the neighbor is not there.

Citizen cooperation has produced results in similar cases on Bainbridge, he said, including an arrest in a burglary spree on the north end of the island last year.

Cain pointed to several techniques islanders could use to protect themselves and their valuables. These include putting a physical impediment, such as a wooden dowel, in window tracks; leaving the radio turned on loud enough to be heard from the outside; puttting some lights in the house on automatic timers; talking with their neighbors about their schedules; and keeping photographs and descriptions of valuables, especially jewelry.

“Bainbridge is not the sleepy burg it was 15 years ago,” Cain said.

“But this is not just a Bainbridge problem,” he added; “we’ve been seeing this all over the state.”

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