Typical summer uptick in burglaries seen in Harford

Harford County has been seeing a fairly typical uptick in burglaries as the summer hits its peak, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

The county has been trending slightly lower for burglaries this season than during the same period last year, Sheriff Jesse Bane said.

"The trend is lower this year than it was last year," Bane said Tuesday.

Nevertheless, warmer weather and school being out all mean more Harford residents are likely to be hit by burglars.

He said Harford County saw 351 burglaries in the first six months of 2012, while there were 302 in the first six months of 2013. Statistics for July, the seventh month, were not available this week.

The sheriff said he expects the number of burglaries per month to decline after September.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said reports of burglaries generally start increasing around mid-May and continue to be reported at a relatively high rate compared to the fall and winter months, until early September.

"There has not been a spike, but there has been a trend and this is a trend that we see every year," he said.

"At the end of the school year, we see the numbers start to trend up toward mid-September," Hopkins said. "While I don't want to say students are suspect, it seems to correlate during the summer."

A handful of burglary arrests have been made recently, both by the Sheriff's Office and other agencies.

A Joppa case

One case from July 18 involves a Darlington man arrested on burglary charges who is being investigated for a possible connection to other area burglaries.

Craig A. Hall, 28, of the 1900 block of Nobles Mill Road, has been charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree assault, vandalism, concealing a dangerous weapon and illegally having a handgun in a vehicle.

According to an application for statement of charges, Hall had allegedly broke into a home in the 2000 block of Winters Run Road in Joppa at about 2 p.m. on July 18, then the homeowner returned home.

The homeowner told police he saw an orange Chevrolet Cobalt leaving his driveway and confronted the driver, who drove off.

The homeowner went to the back of his house to see if anything was missing and then walked back to the front. That's when he saw a man, later identified as Hall, leaving his house, according to the charging documents.

The victim noticed Hall continued to walk to his car and saw his keys were missing. The victim demanded his keys back, and the man, reported by police to have been Hall, replied, "No," and ran around to the back of the house, according to the charging documents.

The victim tackled him, according to the statement.

After the victim let Hall loose, he ran to his vehicle and the victim saw Hall had the homeowner's keys on the front seat of his truck.

The man identified as Hall pulled a tire iron and shattered the window to the victim's truck, then grabbed his keys and returned to the vehicle, according to charging documents.

The victim grabbed his pocket knife and punched a hole in the front and rear driver's side tires of Hall's vehicle, according to charging documents.

Hall then drove the vehicle, with two flat tires, on the front yard, onto the driveway and up Winters Run Road in the direction of Route 7.

Hall was stopped by a Harford County sheriff's deputy shortly after that, according to the statement.

At the Joppa home that had been burglarized, a .45-caliber Ruger handgun was missing and later found in Hall's vehicle, according to charging documents.

A first-floor window screen had been removed from the house and a plastic decorative candle light broken off the window sill, according to the statement.

An "unknown amount" of rifles and shot guns belonging to the homeowner were gathered in a pile in the house. Counter organizers in the kitchen were scattered, along with dresser drawers in a master bedroom.

A safe had been unlocked with a key that had been left in the bedroom. The victim said his rifles and handgun were all stored in the safe.

The homeowner sustained bite marks during the struggle and was also bleeding from his face, according to charging documents.

Hall was also charged with driving even though his license was suspended.

Staying safe

Hopkins, of the Sheriff's Office, said the public must be aware as much as possible to prevent burglaries in the community.

"We ask them to be alert for anything that looks suspicious and not being afraid to call and report suspicious circumstances. If they are able, copy down tag numbers and physical descriptions of suspicious cars and persons. People know if something is out of place in their community," Hopkins said Tuesday.

He said residents should always secure their homes, trim shrubs, put away bikes, tools and lawn equipment, lock cars even if they are home, invest in a good deadbolt lock and arrange for someone to stop by the home when they're on vacation.

"If the community minimizes a thief's opportunity to steal from them[,] it forces the thief to leave that community and go elsewhere," Hopkins said. "Our hope is the more people who reduce their vulnerability to crime the more likely it is they will not be victimized and if everyone practices good crime prevention it frustrates the criminal element and the thief moves on."

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