Deputies pinpoint a suspect in lengthy spree of unreported break-ins
Not only did the thief escape back into the night — time and time again — but the thefts themselves slipped under the radar of law-enforcement authorities.
Now, after uncovering a long-running spree of low-level burglaries, many from seasonal homes in the Paradise Road area, and virtually all unreported to law-enforcement authorities, Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant is urging local residents to call his office whenever they suspect that someone has unlawfully entered their home.
The Oxford County Sheriff's Department took over policing responsibilities for Bethel on July 1, and since then, Gallant said, only eight burglaries have been reported in the town, three of them being in the Paradise Road area.
That represents only a small fraction of the break-ins that are now believed to have taken place.
While most of the break-ins were not reported, they had been a topic of concern and rumors among residents of the area.
Expensive targets, such as televisions, were going untouched; but more day-to-day items, including tools, cold-weather gear, snowshoes and liquor were disappearing.
One resident suggested that it appeared the thief was targeting items he or she needed personally, and then returning repeatedly to some homes for more.
But with no reports being filed, the OCSO was unaware of the problem until earlier this week, Gallant said, when the residents concerns' were passed on to him by The Citizen.
Gallant assigned Lt. Chris Wainwright to investigate.
Wainright, Gallant said, “went up there and started banging on doors. He ruffled some feathers real quick and got some results.”
Among them: ‘There’s an unreal number of homes that have been entered more than one time, and items have been taken –– for the last year, and nobody’s reported it.’
It didn't take long to identify a suspect (whose name cannot be released at this point in the investigation).
“We're still working on it,” Gallant said Tuesday, “but we can assure people that it isn't a gang of people going out and stealing from the houses. We pretty well have it confined down to one perpetrator.
“And,” he added, “we're pretty confident that while this investigation is underway, that person will not re-offend.”
“Lt. Wainright is still investigating this, and he'll follow up and make sure we have some closure on this, so the whole community will know it's safe,” Gallant said.
“By the time we're done, I'm sure numerous cases will be combined into one that will go before Grand Jury.”
Gallant urges anyone who at any time believes their home has been entered to call the OCSO’s Bethel office, at 824-3437.