Police search for link between burglaries

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WESTMINSTER — Detectives with the Vermont State Police are following up on a number of leads in relation to a series of burglaries that occurred on July 10 and 11.

According to press releases from the State Police, chainsaws, weed whackers, hedge trimmers and a welder were stolen from a residence in Athens; a cash register and an air conditioner unit were taken from the West Townshend Country; and a cash register was stolen from D&K Grocery Store in Jamaica. In addition, a vacant apartment in Jamaica was broken into but no property was stolen.

Det. Trooper Brian Berry told the Reformer that investigators are also following up on leads on a spate of burglaries in Whitingham that occurred from April through June.

It's unclear, said Berry, if any of the burglaries are related. However, he said, "There's always a back road that leads to somewhere in Windham County."

While there are no confirmed suspects at this time, said Berry, "They are probably connected due to the time frames. When we have three or four in a couple of days, there is a good chance they are."

Berry also noted that many of the burglaries the Vermont State Police have investigated over the past few years are drug related, "in one way, shape or form. They are taking property and trading it for drugs or trying to sell them and use the money to buy drugs. There always seems to be drugs at the end of the road."

Berry told the Reformer that the opioid crisis has affected many aspects of law enforcement, but it's hard to say whether it has increased the workload of detectives working on property crimes.

"It certainly hasn't subsided, but it usually comes in waves," he said. "And it usually has to do with 'key players' who may have left the area and returned or were recently released from jail. Nonetheless, the crimes do correlate in a large part with the heroin epidemic."

Berry said people can protect themselves best by installing alarm systems that turn on lights and blare loud noises.

"Camera systems are great when they work, but I can't remember the last time when we received a video that is easily accessible or the actual footage was viewable. A lot of times, especially with businesses, the most effective thing is just an inexpensive standard alarm system that makes noise. Nobody wants to stick around while alarms are blaring."

Berry said a starter kit starts around $100 and can be upgraded, depending how much a property or business owner wants to spend. He also noted that in many of the rural areas of Vermont, it doesn't make much sense to contract with an alarm company because by the time a break-in is relayed to local law enforcement and officers make it to the scene, the suspect is long gone.

Barry also recommended that homeowners who go on vacation, or those who own a vacation property or cabin, ask their neighbors to keep an eye out for any unusual activity.

"Lighting is another big deterrence," said Berry, because without lighting, witnesses can't see anything to report.

Since the Reformer spoke with Berry on July 14, the State Police have responded to burglaries at the Cambridgeport Store on Saxtons River Road and the Caf Loco and Harlow Farm Stand in Westminster. In addition, troopers are investigating the theft of more than 100 Oxycodone pills from a residence in Rockingham.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow him on Twitter @audette.reformer.

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