Residents of northern Harford County have been told by police to be on the lookout for suspicious people and situations that don't seem quite right.
There's good reason for them to be on guard.
Since August, the Harford County Sheriff's Office has arrested 16 people in connection with a spate of burglaries and attempted burglaries, most of them occurring in the northern half of the county. In all, those charged are believed responsible for at least 20 crimes, sheriff's office spokesperson Edward Hopkins said.
Many of the break-ins have been crimes of opportunity, Sheriff Jesse Bane and his top commanders told an estimated 200 people who attended a sheriff's town hall meeting in Jarrettsville Saturday.
None of the crimes were violent, and all of them occurred in what are rural neighborhoods, away from the county's more densely populated areas.
Police say the break-ins and attempted break-ins have one other striking common denominator: The perpetrators were stealing to support drug habits.
"The drive behind these burglaries is heroin and prescription drug addiction," Hopkins said earlier this week. "These suspects are operating as a part of several different groups. Some may know each other."
"Homes were targeted during the daytime when the suspects would know the homeowner would be away," he said. "If they found an occupied home, they would ask for a fictitious person and then say they had the wrong house."
Hopkins said none of the incidents turned into actual home invasions or violent situations.
"The suspects were not looking for a confrontation," he said, adding it is still important for people to stay alert.
"We are asking neighborhoods to report anything suspicious. Try to get good descriptions and tag numbers where possible," Hopkins said. "Our best chance of catching these individuals is vigilance in the communities and the communities reporting suspicious circumstances to police immediately."
Many of the burglaries happened over the summer, although some also happened this fall, according Maryland electronic court records.
Several individuals have been charged in connection with multiple crimes.
Cindy Smith, of the 1100 block of Priestford Road in Street, was arrested Sept. 4 and charged with burglary and theft between $10,000 and $100,000.
The burglaries she was charged in connection with occurred in the 3900 block of Heaps School Road, the 3500 block of Ady Road, the 2000 block of Thomas Run Road, the 3600 block of Aldino Road, the 2500 block of Cullum Road and the 1800 block of Poole Road, in communities from Street to Churchville.
Raymond Isom Jr., Stephen Hartwig and Timothy Hartwig were arrested around Oct. 17. No case information was immediately available for the Hartwigs, but Isom lives in the 3700 block of Bay Road in Street.
Isom was charged with first-degree, third-degree and fourth-degree burglary, vandalism and theft between $1,000 and $10,000.
The three were arrested in connection with burglaries in the 2600 block of West Medical Hall Road and the 2600 block of Hoopes Road, Hopkins said.
Ryan Brzowsky was arrested Nov. 27 and charged with first-degree burglary, theft between $1,000 and $10,000 and vandalism.
He was accused of attempting a break-in in the 1600 block of Holly Drive in Joppa, as well as in burglaries in the 1700 block of South Fountain Green Road in Bel Air and the 1700 block of Laurel Brook Road in Fallston.