Vermont State Police investigates rash of burglaries

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BRATTLEBORO >> Following a rash of burglaries in the region, the Vermont State Police is warning people to take precautions to protect their belongings.

"Burglaries are cyclical," said Lt. Paul Favreau, the commander of the State Police's Brattleboro Barracks. "We see them come in waves, often a bunch of them in the same time span. Sometimes, when we make arrests, they slow down."

Since the beginning of November, said Favreau, the region's law enforcement agencies have seen an uptick in burglaries.

"But it's nothing unique."

Favreau said there is no pattern to the burglaries; sometimes it's just a one-off or a crime of opportunity, while other times it's a group of people who are targeting vulnerable homes.

"Sometimes it's just a loner or one group hitting a particular area," he said, but many of them are dealing with substance abuse. "A significant amount of people who commit these burglaries are doing this to support their drug habit."

Burglaries have been reported in Jamaica, Marlboro, Dummerston, Halifax, Saxtons River, Newfane and Guilford. Items reported stolen include electronics, jewelry, precious metal and most worrisome to Favreau, firearms.

"Sometimes they sell the guns locally or trade them out of state for drugs," he said.

Firearms find their way from Vermont, a state with very few controls over purchase and possession, to places such as Massachusetts and New York, where guns are heavily regulated and hard to get, especially for those with a criminal record.

"In Massachusetts, you need a permit," said Favreau. "This makes them a hot commodity and very valuable."

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He said this means law enforcement agencies and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives work with each other across borders when firearms are stolen in Vermont or when they show up in relation to a crime in another state.

"If a firearm is stolen, we can enter the serial number into the National Crime Information Center database and if another agency recovers it they can run it through to find it where it was stolen from," said Favreau. "Hopefully then, we can get the gun back to its rightful owner."

Some gun owners however, don't keep good records of serial numbers, and if police don't have a serial number, it's awfully hard to track a stolen firearm, he said.

"Keep accurate records," said Favreau. "If you can't provide a serial number, we can't return it. And you will have trouble claiming insurance, as well."

Favreau also recommends that gun owners purchase a gun safe to protect their weapons.

"A 500-pound safe is fairly inexpensive, about the same cost of a good handgun. Chances are, a burglar is not going to be able to pick up a safe and just walk out. It is a financial decision, but many people have invested a lot of money in their firearms."

Trigger locks are also a good idea, he said, because a thief may think twice about stealing something that might not be useful for a drug trade.

Stolen firearms are often turned up by undercover agents conducting controlled buys during an investigation. But, said Favreau, any undercover officers goes into such a situation with the assumption that someone is carrying a gun, and takes precautionary measures.

In addition to using a gun safe or trigger locks, Favreau recommends people consider installing surveillance or game cameras in their homes or in their driveways.

"If something does happen, that evidence can help us solve a crime."

There are also alarm systems that can be installed and wired directly to the local law enforcement agency, he said.


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