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.
Jeffrey Baynard, of the 3200 block of Gentian Lane in Middle River, and Stephen Pasko, of the 400 block of Gresham Court in Bel Air, were both arrested Nov. 19 and charged with second-degree burglary, theft under $1,000 and vandalism.
They were charged with three incidents, at Whiteford Pharmacy on Whiteford Road, Darlington Pharmacy on Main Street and another attempted burglary at Whiteford Pharmacy.
Rachel Brown, of the 100 block of Hanover Street in Aberdeen, and Christopher Milburn, of the 100 block of Darlington Road in Havre de Grace, were arrested Oct. 22 in connection with three burglaries.
Brown was charged with first- and fourth-degree burglary, theft between $1,000 and $10,000, a stolen firearm and vandalism. Milburn was charged with first-degree burglary, two counts of theft between $1,000 and $10,000 and two counts of theft under $1,000.
The burglaries they are charged with happened in the 200 block of Hopkins Road near Churchville, 4500 block of Conowingo Road in Darlington and 100 block of Northway Drive in Webster Village west of Havre de Grace.
David Akehurst, of the 3200 block of Snake Lane in Churchville, was arrested on a warrant at the end of August and charged with two counts of theft between $1,000 and $10,000 and first-degree burglary.
He allegedly burglarized a property in the 900 block of Prospect Mill Road in Bel Air.
Dianna Marketti and Joseph Baumgarten were arrested in connection with a burglary in the 4200 block of Federal Hill Road, Hopkins said. No information about either of their cases could be found in the Maryland electronic court records.
Adam Salyer, of the 600 block of Aldino Stepney Road in Aberdeen, was charged with fourth-degree burglary, vandalism and theft under $100. He was arrested Nov. 7.
Hopkins said Salyer was accused in a burglary in the 4200 block of Auer Lane near Darlington.