Burglaries rise sharply in Harford; police baffled by lack of pattern

Burglaries have risen sharply in Harford County this year, according to local police, most likely driven by the weak economy and drug habits, but the lack of a pattern to the crimes is baffling investigators.

In the northern end of the county, the burglary rate from January through August is up 116 percent compared to last year, according to Monica Worrell, spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

In 2011, through Aug. 10, 67 burglaries had been reported in the area covered by the Sheriff's Office's Northern Precinct Station. In the same period this year, 145 burglaries were reported.

In the past 30 days, Worrell said, there were 20 burglaries in this area, compared to eight during the same 30-day period last year.

There has been a 23 percent increase from January through August for the southern end of the county as well, she added.

In 2011, through Aug. 10, 193 burglaries were reported in the area covered by the Sheriff's Office's Southern Precinct Station. This year, 239 have been reported.

In the past 30 days in the southern end, Worrell said, there were 50 burglaries, compared to 28 in the same period in 2012.

Unlike the string of burglaries in Fallston a few months ago, Worrell said, many of the latest crimes show no commonalities or trends. They range from residential to shed break-ins and are sometimes by someone the family knows or other times by strangers.

In several cases, however, Worrell explained, things of value have been left unsecured or were not put in a place where they are safe.

"That's the challenge," she said Thursday. "There's no commonality geographically, in the time of day, in the mode of entry, in what is being taken. We can't identify patterns."

The Harford County Sheriff's Office is encouraging people to be aware, to report suspicious people or vehicles in their neighborhoods and to use technology – smart phones and digital cameras – to take pictures of suspicious vehicles, she added.

"Lock you doors, lock your car, compile serial numbers because if something is taken, you have a much better chance of retrieving it if you have identifying information," she said.

Investigators believe, the economy is a factor in the burglaries, as well as people with drug habits needing to steal to get drugs, according to Worrell.

"They [the burglars] are looking for anything pawnable that can quickly be turned into cash," she said.

A sampling of police reports from mid-July through early August showed burglaries reported in Churchville, Havre de Grace, Forest Hill and Edgewood.

On July 17, a burglary was reported in the 1100 block of Walters Mill Road in Forest Hill, having occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to a police report.

Deputies on scene could not find a point of entry or exit, but cash and jewelry had been stolen.

A shed break-in in Churchville was reported on Aug. 6 and believed to have occurred between then and Aug. 1, according to another report.

The owner, who lives in the 2900 block of Churchville Road, told police that in a previous theft he believed a pry bar had been stolen and a few days earlier there were people trespassing on his property with off-road vehicles, according to the report. Two bolt cutters, worth $50 each, were stolen from the shed and the door was damaged in the August break-in, according to the police report.

Items weren't stolen in the Edgewood break-in on Aug. 1, where a landlord reported that a kitchen window was open after a tenant moved out in July, according to the report.

The landlord changed the locks in the 500 block of Jamestown Court after the tenant, who had kept one set of the keys, moved out and told deputies that the kitchen window had been secured.

In the fourth burglary, a resident of the 200 block of Hopkins Road near Havre de Grace, told deputies her house was broken into while she was at work on Aug. 1, according to the police report.

The two upstairs bedrooms in the location were noticeably "disturbed" and several items were stolen including a TV, digital camera, birth certificate, safe, coin bank, jewelry and two guns, according to the report.

When the homeowner's brother stopped by the house in the afternoon, he noticed a missing rifle but did not check the upstairs, according to the report.

In that burglary, deputies determined the point of entry in the basement where a small, ground level window was broken.

Worrell said homeowners can get a wealth of information about protecting their property and themselves and other security tips by visiting the Sheriff's Office website at http://www.harfordsheriff.org.

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