For three months, a team of burglars preyed upon over 60 houses in Anne Arundel and Howard county, kicking down doors, snatching more than $40,000 worth of televisions and videocassette recorders and terrorizing neighbors.
On Friday morning, officers caught them, police said.
Weeks of surveillance by Anne Arundel and Howard county police ended around 10:30 a.m. when Howard County officers saw the suspects breaking into a home in the 6000 block of Ducketts Lane in Elkridge, police said.
"The one guy they talked to said, 'I'm glad it's over,' " said Anne Arundel County Detective Vaughn Dykes. The joint investigation began in June, after police noticed a pattern in the burglaries near the Jessup and Hanover neighborhoods straddling the Anne Arundel and Howard county line.
The first break came when Anne Arundel police matched a convicted criminal's fingerprint with one found on a piece of furniture in one of the homes that had been burglarized. Around the same time, Howard County police investigating a separate burglary discovered another fingerprint from the same man.
Although police identified the man, he had no fixed address and could not be found.
Police officers from the two counties worked together for several weeks, meeting each morning at a car dealership on Route 175 to discuss their evidence and divide up the neighborhoods. Neighbors reported seeing a suspicious silver or blue car circling their neighborhoods. One neighbor gave police a license plate number, which was traced to a stolen car.
But despite as many as 10 police officers driving through the neighborhoods, following suspicious cars and staking out homes, the robberies continued. The police did, however, arrest another man who had allegedly broken into an abandoned home and stolen the copper pipes.
On Friday, they got their break. Howard County police officers in an unmarked car were patrolling Ducketts Lane when three men passed in a silver station wagon that matched neighbors' descriptions. The car also had the same license plate number given to police. The officers radioed for backup, made a U-turn and watched the men pull into a driveway, break into the house, and get back in their car, police said.
"These guys were fast," said Detective Dykes. "They were in and out of the house in 30 seconds."
The suspects tried to escape when they found the unmarked police car blocking their way. One man was caught immediately. As officers arrived over the next 30 minutes, a Maryland State Police helicopter spotted the second man running through a creek. He, too, was arrested. A Baltimore County police dog tracked the third suspect.
"He had put a whole bunch of leaves over him and was trying to hide near the creek," Detective Dykes said.
Three men, none of whom have a fixed address, are being held at the Howard County jail on burglary and other charges. Wayne Sylvester Hebron, 43, is being held on $102,500 bail. Larry Darnell Hebron, 37, is being held on $150,000 bail and Avery Lee Harding, 33, is held on $50,000 bail.
Neighbors said they were relieved to hear about the arrests.
"Oh good, I hope that's all of them," said Laura Downey, a 33-year-old accountant from Jessup.
Mrs. Downey said she and her husband were so scared by the burglaries that they paid $1,295 for an alarm system. "These guys were literally kicking in front doors and coming in," she said. "We were all just so paranoid. We're like prisoners in our own home."