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Police team up in effort to stem wave of break-ins

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2011

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Police officers from Duxbury, Middleborough, and Plympton, along with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, surrounded a house in Sherborn where a burglary was in progress Monday and nabbed a man and woman suspected of raiding a number of homes across southeastern Massachusetts.

The suspects, said to be a couple, listed Milton as their hometown but are believed to be operating out of Brockton, according to police, who say they now expect they would be able to close several pending cases in this area.

House break-ins south of Boston have been on the rise, with homeowners returning to find torn screens and doors forced open, and their jewelry, cash, and electronics taken. But law enforcement officials say they believe they are making at least some headway against the scourge by addressing it regionally.

Take Easton, where the number of home burglaries has doubled in the last year. Recently a crew of burglars struck homes in two retirement communities, then crossed to Mansfield and hit a property there. Easton Police Chief Allen Krajcik said three youths were responsible - an 18-year-old and two 14-year-olds. The trio were charged after Mansfield police picked up the 18-year-old and Easton police the two juveniles.

Brockton police, meanwhile, arrested two people in the city last week and charged them with break-ins in Easton and Mansfield. The pair are in their 40s. Krajcik said authorities in area towns were also close to nabbing a third crew suspected of burglaries in the area.

“We’re all sharing information,’’ he said.

Krajcik said the burglars employ similar methods of operation to get in and out of targeted homes quickly. “They’ll use a pillow case from the house to load things into,’’ he said. Jewelry is a big draw. His advice: “Don’t leave things out in the open.’’

Mansfield Police Chief Arthur O’Neill said he believes most break-ins are directly related to widespread drug use. “This is not like the Depression, when someone robs a gas station to feed his family,’’ he said. “This is different. It’s the drugs, the drugs, the drugs. We have an epidemic of pill use.’’

Mansfield police Detective Sergeant Ronald Sellon said there have been nearly 20 house breaks in town since the beginning of September. From a Franklin Street home, he said, the recently apprehended Brockton pair took 70 pairs of earrings, 46 necklaces, two Xboxes, and other items.

Sellon said burglars sometimes go straight for the medicine cabinet looking for Percocet, OxyContin, and other strong painkilling medication. “Some of these robberies are done out of sheer desperation,’’ he said.

In Milton, there have been 38 house breaks since July. It isn’t a single area that’s being targeted, said Milton Deputy Police Chief Charles Paris.

“They’ve been pretty much all over town,’’ he said. “Most are drug-related. They’re looking for quick cash.’’ The high price of gold makes jewelry a hot commodity, he added.

Regional law enforcement efforts have yielded some success against the burglars.

“We’ve been working with other agencies in towns like Braintree, Randolph, Sharon, and Stoughton, and when there’s an arrest made, we’re able to clear some of our cases,’’ Paris said. Milton homeowners have become a little nervous over the spike in house burglaries, and in some cases neighborhoods have asked local police to provide them with tips to avoid a break-in.

“We can show them how to be more effective,’’ Paris said. “We tell them we are making arrests, and we are no different from anywhere else.’’

South of Milton, Middleborough police Sergeant Joseph Perkins and other officers last week arrested three youths as they allegedly tried to steal from a house on Cherry Street. A neighbor had contacted police. The trio are longtime Middleborough residents, in their 20s and late teens; two were homeless. They were charged with breaking and entering, and trespassing.

“We also caught one [burglary suspect] about a month ago,’’ Perkins said.

The big bust, however, went down far from Middleborough, after officers from the town, Duxbury, Plympton, and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department tailed Francis Paiva, 28, and Sandra Homan, 32, through several towns over the weekend and allegedly caught the pair in the act of burglarizing a house in Sherborn Monday.

Perkins said that in addition to the Sherborn case, in which charges of breaking and entering were brought Tuesday, the pair are also suspected of breaks in Middleborough, Duxbury, Plympton, and elsewhere.

Duxbury Police Chief Matthew Clancy said his department will charge the pair with a house break-in that took place in June and a more recent attempted break-in. The pair were being held in Middlesex County in connection with the Sherborn incident, and Clancy said more charges may follow from Duxbury.

“There are a least four other breaks spanning several months that could have involved these folks, so there may be more charges,’’ he said. The suspects drove a white Cadillac that surfaced in several towns where there were break-ins over the past several months, and Plympton police were able to get a license plate number so the suspects could be identified and followed, police said.

Clancy said the pair are believed to have operated on the North Shore and Blackstone Valley too, adding he expects several area police departments to file charges against them.

Perkins said neighbors are one of the strongest defenses a homeowner can have against a break-in. “The best thing is to have eyes on your house,’’ he said. And be aware of unfamiliar vehicles in the area or in a neighbor’s driveway.

“And if someone knocks on your door asking for directions or something else that seems strange, get a license plate number,’’ Perkins said. “License plates are key. That’s how we’ve been catching these thieves.’’

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.


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