Deputies will go door-to-door in an Edgewood community tomorrow, giving safety tips and seeking information that could help them catch an elusive burglar who has entered a dozen homes and committed a sex act in front of some of the victims, a sheriff's spokesman said.
Until four nights ago, the thief operated exclusively in the Courts of Harford Square, a townhouse community behind the Edgewater Shopping Center on U.S. 40, Cpl. Paul Cole, a detective for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said Friday.
About 2 a.m. Wednesday, the same thief apparently broke into a townhouse in the Meadowood community, just south of Hanson Road across from the Courts of Harford Square.
Corporal Cole said the incident Wednesday was the first this month and was similar to five break-ins at the Courts of Harford Square in May.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office says the man has masturbated at some of the homes he entered.
Police periodically use special surveillance details, and every deputy patrolling the Edgewood sector has taken an interest in catching the thief, the corporal said.
"Our main goal is to apprehend him," Corporal Cole said. "The next best thing is to try to keep him away by using good crime-prevention techniques."
The string of about a dozen incidents began last June but suddenly ended in October, the corporal said. "When the break-ins stopped, we began to think the guy either was arrested on another crime or had moved out of the area."
Just as suddenly, it appears the same thief resumed break-ins in May.
L His methods have been fairly consistent, Corporal Cole said.
He routinely gains entry, usually between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., by using a screwdriver or coat hanger to pry open a sliding glass door. If he sees a purse or wallet nearby, he steals the money from it. But the corporal said that probably is not his primary reason for breaking in.
The man picks homes where curtains on windows or the sliding glass doors are not closed and a woman can be seen asleep on the living room sofa, the corporal said. In about five or six instances, the intruder has approached the woman while she slept. Sometimes he has lightly touched her on an arm or leg and awakened her, the corporal said.
A special surveillance detail almost caught the intruder last month but he eluded police. "We had some pretty fast runners after him, but he still got away," Corporal Cole said.
In July, the man committed a sex act on a back porch after breaking in and stealing $120 from a woman's purse.
"I woke up when my granddaughter came downstairs," said the female resident. "I heard a noise and saw him 'doing his thing.' Then he walked around the shed and was gone."
In every case in which the victim woke up and made a noise, the man ran out immediately, Corporal Cole said. "No one has been injured," he said.
"Because witnesses have just been awakened, they haven't been able to provide a really good description," he said.
They describe the man as black, about 5 feet 5 to 5 feet 8 inches tall with a thin to medium build. He wears dark clothing and his face and hands are covered.
In one incident in July, he left behind a gray wool Miami Hurricanes baseball cap with a green bill.
In Wednesday's break-in, he had a hooded coat with a muffler-type flap that covered his face, Corporal Cole said. He fled the scene on a black or dark BMX-style dirt-racing bicycle, the corporal said.
It will take deputies two evenings to go door-to-door in the neighborhood, Corporal Cole said. "And we will probably make fliers and crime prevention brochures available in the Meadowood community as well," he said.
The corporal said residents should not panic. "This is not a hopeless situation," he said. "Many of these crimes could have been prevented, and that is why we're going to go door-to-door."
Corporal Cole said anyone with information about the man may call him at (410) 836-5436 or Sgt. Robert Richick at (410) 836-5439.