2018-02-01 / Front Page

Another burglary prompts police warning

Mello: Majority of break-ins have happened at unlocked houses
BY TIM RIEL

Despite Jamestown’s reputation, which has drawn comparisons to Mayberry RFD, the town limits are not devoid of crime.

That’s evidenced by nine burglaries in the past 15 months, which is the reason police are encouraging homeowners to lock their doors.

“We are well-known for our wealth,” Police Chief Ed Mello, a resident since 2012, said. “It’s easy to get on and off the island from North Road and Route 138. It doesn’t take a lot of planning. We are a community with seasonal homes. This makes us vulnerable.”

The warning by Mello follows an alarming incident last Thursday in upper Shoreby Hill. Shortly after 11 a.m., a Whittier Road resident arrived home, in broad daylight, to an unwelcome surprise. After hearing commotion on the second floor, the 59-year-old homeowner scaled the steps to discover a stocky stranger, about 5 feet 11 inches tall, in a blue maintenance uniform with a balaclava concealing his face. Startled by this encounter, and the homeowner’s rifle, the burglar leapt from the second-story window to freedom.

Mello said police responded within two minutes but did not determine the direction in which the suspect fled. State troopers with a K-9 unit also were unable to track him. Although there is no vehicle description, Mello said the man likely headed toward his vehicle, or a getaway driver’s, on North Road.

This episode was the ninth reported break-in since November 2016, which is when police responded to a call that echoes last week’s case.

“Same road, similar circumstances, similar time of day, similar description,” Mello said.

During that incident, a woman returned home from lunch in Newport to discover a white heavyset man exiting the back deck of her house. At first, she thought it was her neighbor, but she then noticed paperwork scattered on the bed. She also discovered that someone had rummaged through her packed suitcase. No one has been caught, although Mello has reason to believe it’s the same suspect.

In between these similar encounters was a burglary in June 2017 on Prudence Road, which is parallel to Whittier. This suspect, however, was captured. The homeowner, a 52-year-old man, was able to pull the 19-year-old Californian from the garage window into the lawn. The bold homeowner pinned down the trespasser until police arrived.

The suspect was found with a duffle bag containing 16 grams of marijuana, a U.S. Army bonnie, Carrera sunglasses, a Garmin GPS, two iPhone chargers and a pink baseball hat with “Jamestown” stitched across the front. All of these items were reported stolen from cars in town.

According to Mello, these three incidents had one thing in common: an unlocked entranceway. Last week it was the front door; the Prudence Road burglary was a garage window; and the November 2016 incident was a sliding glass door. Since taking charge of the police force in September 2011, Mello said the majority of breaking-and-entering complaints follow similar circumstances.

“In most of these cases, with a few exceptions, people are going into unlocked homes,” he said.

Police still are investigating the report from last week. Detectives are inspecting fingerprints, shoe impressions and video. While Mello could not comment specifically on the investigation, he did say they look at the crime from every angle. In one case, they even pulled DNA from utensils because the trespasser was eating during his burglary.

“We process what we can,” Mello said.

Although this latest string of burglaries doesn’t constitute an epidemic, the chief is suggesting security measures, including cameras, alarms, dogs and lighting. Also, never let a stranger into the house without identification, he said.

“If someone comes to the door and claims to be from the water department or National Grid, ask for ID,” he said. “No matter who it is.”

The easiest measure to protect private property, however, also is the simplest.

“Lock your doors,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

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