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Police advise residents to remain vigilant

Date: 8/6/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — East Longmeadow Police are asking residents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity as they attempt to curb a recent string of vandalism and break-ins throughout the town.

Sgt. Patrick Manley said two recent incidents are part of a "scattering" of break-ins in town that do not appear to be confined to one area.

"No specific neighborhood has been targeted," he said.

Most recently, according to Manley, the police were alerted to two attempted home invasions during which teenage girls were at home and alerted parents to a problem.

On Aug. 1, a woman called the police to report that her daughter heard someone knock loudly on the front door of their residence then heard the back door of the house open and close. The girl called her mother, who then called the police.

"People need to remember to call the police and call early," Manley said. "If the girl had called us directly, we probably could have responded sooner, but by the time she spoke to her mom and her mom called us, whoever it was was long gone."

On July 27, police arrested one suspect, Victor Figueroa of Springfield, after he broke into a Mapleshade Avenue residence.

In that incident, a 14-year-old girl was awoken after Figueroa knocked loudly on the bedroom door. The girl looked out the window, saw the man, then called her mother, who instructed her to call the police. In the meantime, the suspect entered the house from the back.

Manley said the two incidents do not appear to be related as responding officers were able to apprehend Figueroa, but the manner in which the two break-ins occurred was similar.

"In both of these cases, the perpetrator used a pretty common tactic. He knocked on the door to see if anyone was home. If someone had come to the door, he could have said he was at the wrong house, looking for his dog, or some other excuse for being there," he said.

In the earlier incident, Manley said, the girl reported she heard the perpetrator talking, possibly to a second suspect, but many times speaking can be another tactic used by burglars.

"Sometimes perpetrators will speak out loud and call for a person or a dog or cat so that if they are confronted by a homeowner or neighbor, they can say they were looking for a person they thought lived there or an animal that is lost," he said.

While the two most recent housebreaks do not appear to be connected, Manley said they are looking into Figueroa's involvement in other break-ins, including one incident where the police were able to lift latent fingerprints off of a window.

On July 24, a third incident of a burglar entering an occupied dwelling took place as a suspect entered a home and stole a purse containing keys and a wallet.

"We suspect that someone was going through open cars in the neighborhood and came across a car that was close to the house and could see in," Manley said. "When they tried the door, they found it unlocked and found the purse and keys."

The keys were used to steal an SUV in the driveway that was later recovered in Springfield. However, Manley said, the credit cards were used at several locations in the Greater Springfield area.

We have some leads, but we were not able to get any readable prints off of the car," he said. "We may be able to track down who used the cards, but the person who uses them is not always the person who stole them."

Manley said that in response to the incidents, police have stepped up the number and timing of patrols.

"We have adjusted patrol procedures and have instructed officers to concentrate on patrols in neighborhoods as opposed to speed enforcement in certain areas at certain times," he said.

Police Chief Douglas Mellis told Reminder Publications that residents should protect themselves by leaving all doors and windows locked, even when they are home.

Manley added that residents should not feel as if they are inconveniencing the police by calling about a concern.

"A very common feeling people have is that the police have something better to do," he said. "[On July 27] there was nothing more important than that suspicious person in that yard."

Manley encouraged the public to note any suspicious people or vehicles in the area and not hesitate to report them.

"If we have a description or a license plate number, then we have something to go on, which is better than having nothing," he said. "How would you feel if you saw a suspicious vehicle and did nothing, then your home or your neighbor's home was broken into?"

In addition to residential break-ins, police have also been battling other issues ranging from commercial property break-ins, including Competitive Edge on North Main Street in an incident in which arrests were made, to a rash of vehicle vandalisms.

More than 30 vehicles' windows were broken by beebees earlier this summer in a case that has yet to be solved.

"We don't have any suspects in that case, but the problem seems to have abated," he said. "We haven't had an incident in a while."