Howard County police have made 24 arrests in swimming pool break-ins this summer in Columbia.
While warm weather often results in a slight increase in vandalism and burglary at swimming pools, this year the break-ins were much more abundant than in previous years, police said. During the peak in June, 10 of the Columbia Association's 23 pools were burglarized.
"It raised a red flag, and the department wanted to respond quickly to prevent additional events from occurring throughout the summer," said Sherry Llewellyn, spokeswoman for the Police Department.
Police increased patrols and conducted surveillance. The break-ins continued until the pools closed Labor Day, decreasing in frequency. However, police determined that juveniles were responsible for a large number of them.
The incidents started June 7 at Dasher Green Pool on Cradlerock Way. Only small amounts of money were taken, police noted. But pool managers had to contend with the expense and aggravation of repairing locks, doors and windows.
"A group of kids were breaking into pools sometimes for fun, but sometimes it was to burglarize," Llewellyn said. "One surveillance operation even caught a juvenile while he was attempting to cut a fence with bolt cutters at Stevens Forest Pool."
Police withheld information on those arrested because all of the suspects are younger than 18.
Because of the break-ins, the Columbia Association stopped keeping money at its pools after hours.
The teen-agers, apparently friends, were also responsible for a rash of car windows broken with BB guns in the Ellicott City and Elkridge areas, police said.
Police said that from June through August, at least 60 private vehicles had their windows shot out.
The juveniles were charged with burglary, trespassing and destruction of property.
The targeted pools at the peak of break-ins were:
Dasher Green, 6805 Cradlerock Way; Hopewell Pool, 9200 Rustling Leaf; Longfellow, 5257 Eliots Oak Road; Huntington, 7625 Murray Hill Road; Orchard Club Apartments, 6330 Orchard Club Drive; MacGill's Common, 10023 Shaker Drive; Dorsey Hall, 4649 Columbia Road; River Hill, 6300 Trotter Road; Talbott Springs, 9660 Basket Ring Road; Stevens Forest, 6061 Stevens Forest Road; and Thunder Hill, 5134 Thunder Hill Road.