Holly Sow/ Arizona Silver Belt
A string of home invasions and burglaries in various neighborhoods and business districts have many residents and business owners on alert. The crimes show signs of being well-organized and planned out.
Globe — Warmer weather arrived early this year in Globe, and with it an increase in reports of theft. Already in January of this year, a spike in burglaries prompted citizens in one particularly hard-hit neighborhood to form a local neighborhood watch group called GLOW (Globe Locals On Watch). The group raised $1,100 as reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crimes using the anonymous WeTip hotline (1-800-WE-TIP). The group is working closely with the Globe Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.
Nonetheless, the number of homes and businesses hit by thieves continues to keep citizens and shop owners on edge. Many of the victims of this recent wave of theft report similarities as well as some disturbing trademarks to the criminals’ handy work. Police Chief Lee Kinnard told the Silver Belt that while burglaries continue to occur throughout the city, there are a few areas that are being hit harder than others. “This could be that the suspects live in the area and are on foot,” Chief Kinnard offered.
In particular, the neighborhoods in north and east Globe have seen suspicious cars parked in front of houses, people videotaping from their cars, and groups of teens and young adults walking on foot back and forth through the neighborhood. Victims reported that they left their houses to perform their daily routines and when they returned, they found that their house had been broken into in the middle of the day. Hot ticket items for the thieves appear to be cash, electronics, jewelry and guns. However, some cases involve metal and pretty much anything that can be pawned.
Due to the pending investigations in many of these cases, not all information can be released. However, there are some recognizable patterns to both home invasions as well as retail theft. “Traditionally, we saw most burglaries occur at night,” stated Chief Kinnard. “This is no longer true. We see these crimes occurring at any time of day. A lot of these are forced entry, but these criminals will take full advantage of unlocked doors and windows.”
Signs of organized crime include working in groups, staking out houses, keeping track of when people are at their residencies and when they are usually absent. The thieves also seem to be very comfortable performing their crimes. Some neighbors reported having confronted suspicious individuals. The suspects tell legitimate-sounding stories about being asked to be there for a specific purpose. Neighbors not wanting to call the cops on a handyman who was hired to be there walk away unsuspectingly. Furthermore, the criminals do not appear to fear the consequences of their actions. Chief Kinnard said that while his department has made arrests in some of the cases, none have gone to trial yet. “If an arrest is made, the report will be forwarded to the Gila County Attorney’s Office with a request for charges. The County Attorney’s Office will then decide to take the case to court, offer a plea bargain or reject the case for lack of evidence.”
AJ Gore was a victim of burglary earlier this spring. The thieves stole a number of valuables, including many guns from his gun collection. Gore, who is also a member of GLOW, is worried about the increase in home invasions and has pinpointed several factors that speak for a well-organized theft operation. Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 50 burglaries reported to authorities. While the number may sound small, Gore pointed out, “The amount of volume (of stolen goods) for such a small community is ridiculous.” Thieves are watchful, they study daily routines of their targets, and most shockingly, when confronted, they act like they should be on the premises. Gore added, “If they don’t finish the job, they will come back.”
Linda Gross, also a member of GLOW, reported observing suspicious vehicles driving up and down Cedar Street. They park and wait. Sometimes these same vehicles will drop off individuals and speed off. Gross, like others in the neighborhood watch, see teens and young adults being used by the group or groups organizing the crimes.
Don Yerkovich owns a storage building in south Globe. One day, he arrived at his building only to find it had been broken into and cleared out of about half of its possessions. Even a spare car was taken from his property during day light hours on a trailer bed. Three tons of metal were taken from his property. Yerkovich reported the burglary to the police. The very next day, at approximately 11 a.m. Yerkovich received a call from Globe Police Officers who were at his storage building again. They asked Yerkovich if he had asked three men to remove scrap metal from his property. Yerkovich said he had not and immediately set course for his property. By the time Yerkovich arrived at his property, the three men were gone in their truck, but after they had removed all the items from their vehicle and had provided officers with their information. The three men were later arrested by Globe PD, but were released the same day. “They should be serving time!” Yerkovich demanded. “They have no fear of the law. They laugh at police officers. They need to hammer these guys!”
An investigation of the crime scene revealed that the three men had cut a hole in the roof and entered the building through the roof in broad daylight.
Debbie Cox of Service First Realty has also received reports suspicious acts involving tenants renting houses overseen by Service First Realty. In Globe there have been various incidents where someone will go to a tenant’s house, knock on the door, and tell the tenant that they are interested in buying the property and the owner gave them permission to look inside the house before buying it. “They are casing houses,” Cox explained. Another scheme the tenants have reported is a man with a clip board going door to door checking for chipped glass or other excuses to come inside the house or to look around the property. In Miami, there was a case where a man claimed to be selling magazine subscriptions. He became very aggressive with a tenant and tried to force his way into the house of a single mother. She called the Sheriff’s Office and the man was tracked down with four other men riding in a vehicle.
Cox warned everyone, not only those renting from Service First Realty, to “be very conscientious.” She said she tells her tenants that unless she calls them with information, no one has a right to be on the premises. “People in this community like to be helpful so they are often trusting,” Cox imparted. Unfortunately, these organized criminals feed off of the trusting nature of such small communities. Cox praised the initiative of citizens to also organize and become involved in keeping their neighborhoods safe. “It is a breath of fresh air to see the community getting involved in neighborhood watches.”
GLOW members and victims of the recent wave of burglaries all agree, call the cops if you see anything suspicious. It is better to be safe than sorry and every crime could add a missing link or a valuable piece of information to help stop the organized burglaries. Gore reminds citizens to lock all your doors and windows and call and report any theft or signs of attempted trespass. “A properly functioning Neighborhood Watch group is a great crime deterrent tool,” Chief Kinnard encouraged.
Keep valuable items such as jewelry and guns locked up if possible. Take pictures of your property and keep them separate from the items.
Chief Kinnard also emphasized that “we are living in different times. People remember when they did not need to lock their homes or cars. Unfortunately, this is no longer true.” He also stressed the importance of documentation and keeping records. “Write down product names, serial and model numbers and put them in a safe place.” The more information that is provided to law enforcement the better. “Some items such as firearms can be entered into the NCIC (Nationwide Crime Network Computer) and when an officer runs the serial number and model number it will show that it is stolen. This computer system requires specific information or it will not accept an entry.”
In the case of scrap metal theft, Yerkovich said that state law should mandate that scrap metal buyers be required to video tape who is bringing in what. Scrap metal buyers should also be held accountable for decisions to buy metal that they believe could be stolen. Suspicious sellers should be reported by the scrap metal buyers. “These guys that show up every other day with loads of metal are not cleaning out their garage; they’re cleaning out others’ garages.”
Everyone is encouraged to keep a watchful eye and to report crime and suspicious behavior. Organized crime is best defeated by organized citizens watching out for each other. Chief Kinnard has offered free security assessments for homes and or businesses, but so far only two people have called to schedule one. Don’t help thieves help themselves to your belongings; lock up your houses and belongings and be proactive in neighborhood watch groups.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series. Next week, the Silver Belt will report on the increase in retail theft at local businesses.