By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
The West Side of Fairmont is being hit with a rash of residential burglaries.
There is a pattern, said Lt. Investigations Steve Shine of the Fairmont Police Department.
The break-ins have taken place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. All residences have been unoccupied, and none has had a home security system.
All have been forcible entries, such as doors being kicked in.
The thieves are making off with small, valuable items that are easily concealed and carried.
“They’re happening in eyeshot of people who are home in the daytime,” he said. “Right next door to people who are home. But there is not one specific suspect identified.
“There are all kinds of misinformation,” he said. “There are so many types of suspects.”
He added it could be one male or more, or “even females.”
The first thing you can do is be vigilant for anything that looks suspicious, he said.
This could be someone you’ve never seen before in your neighborhood. Someone unfamiliar who is in a neighbor’s yard or at the door. Someone wearing a backpack or carrying a duffel bag. A car that drives by slowly several times.
“Call us immediately if you see someone suspicious,” he said.
“It would be obvious to hear someone beating on a neighbor’s door. Something suspicious like this neighbors could look out for.
“These people are kicking in doors. They’re not trying to be sneaky. People are at home and not hearing or seeing suspicious people. It’s a little frustrating.
“If you see this, call 911 immediately,” Shine said. “You don’t need to talk to anyone in particular. And don’t wait a couple of hours. This is key.
“Keep an eye on the suspect until police arrive on scene.”
He said that not everyone who looks suspicious is necessarily one of the robbers.
Be a good eyewitness, he said. Make note of the person’s description and vehicle if possible.
He was hesitant in naming specific neighborhoods being hit (“Neighbors know who’s being targeted,” he said), but said that police are aware of the string of burglaries.
You can protect your valuables by keeping their serial numbers on file in your computer or having your initials engraved on them.
Expensive jewelry and other valuables are best kept in a safe deposit box at the bank. If you must keep them at home, invest in a heavy-duty home safe, one strong enough to “take several people and time and equipment to open,” he said.
Most importantly, he said, photograph your valuables. This makes it easier to identify them, he said.
There have always been break-ins in Fairmont, he said.
“But usually we have a better idea of who. We have no idea if this is an organized ring. Anything we have is theory we’re just tossing around.”
No arrests have been made yet in these particular burglaries, he said, but police have beefed up protection with undercover officers and extra squad patrols, he said.
Home security systems offer extra protection, he said, as well as cameras placed inside the home.
“These can bring peace of mind.”
“We’ve connected maybe one other crime to being outside the West Side area,” he said.
“We’ve reached out and spoken with neighboring jurisdictions and they don’t seem to have the same series of burglaries,” Shine said.
Local pawn stores have been notified to be aware of possible stolen goods, he said.
“It makes it hard to identify the items if we don’t have photos,” he said.
“Talk to your neighbors. Make sure everyone in the neighborhood is extra vigilant.
“If you’re going away, have the paper and mail stopped. Do things to curtail someone from targeting you.”
Should you be home when it’s being broken into, “Do whatever you can to be safe, whether that means leaving or defending yourself,” Shine said.
“But don’t confront the attacker. He could be armed. That’s the worst-case scenario. But when something like this happens, someone breaking into your house, you’re probably too shocked to do anything but flee or defend your property.
“Get out of the house. Leave the situation. That’s the best thing to do.
“There’s no indication as of right how that the suspects are armed,” he said.
Descriptions of the culprits “are all over the board,” Shine said. “There is a common theme in the suspects, but we’re not trying to limit it to any particular age or race.
“Someone you see in your area may look suspicious, but may not necessarily be the perpetrators.
“Still, if there is anyone in your neighborhood who does not belong, call 911 immediately.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.