Over winter break, the town of Orono fell victim to an influx of burglaries affecting a number of houses occupied by University of Maine students.
On Dec. 27, the Bangor Daily News wrote that six burglaries had been reported. On Jan. 21, Orono Police Chief Josh Ewing said that a dozen have been reported, with the latest on Jan. 20. Ewing believes that the burglaries are all related.
Even though students are away for a month on winter break with their houses left vacant, Ewing said that there is not usually a jump in burglaries.
“This has happened maybe one or two other times, it’s not every year,” Ewing said. “We go some breaks and nothing happens.”
Large items, like televisions, were relatively untouched by the burglars, who targeted small items like small electronics, spare change and jewelry. Ewing and other officials have collected evidence at the crime scenes, and the investigation is ongoing.
“We’ve collected some evidence, some DNA and fingerprints,” Ewing said. “We’re trying to develop those leads. At this point, we don’t have anything concrete.”
Katelyn McPherson, a psychology student at UMaine, was one of the dozen victims of the burglaries. McPherson estimates that thousands of dollars of items were taken from her house between Dec. 23 and Dec. 26.
“In our house in particularly, we’ve estimated approximately $6,000 worth of belongings were stolen, between two laptops, watches, purses and backpacks, and all of our change jars,” McPherson said.
“When I first realized there were items, my laptop, missing in my room I was just really confused and didn’t want to believe someone had been in my room taking my stuff,” McPherson said.
McPherson said her neighbor mentioned an unfamiliar car backing into the driveway during the time her and her roommates were away.
“Every single room was a mess because they went through everything from jewelry boxes, drawers and purses,” McPherson said. “I first checked for everyone’s expensive electronic items, laptops, speakers and TVs. After realizing what stuff was missing, I was mostly just angry.”
McPherson said that the police department hasn’t offered her any developments, but she is sure that they have suspects in mind.
“I would hope that we would get our items back, but realistically I know we won’t ever get our stuff back,” McPherson said.
Danica Hurley, a nursing student, believes that the burglar had an understanding of the value of jewelry, as they stole items of hers that appeared valuable.
“Whoever it was seemed to have an understanding of what was worth money and what was not, so they took only things that appeared to have high value.”
Hurley’s largest loss was a silver necklace that had ashes of a deceased relative in it. She said that each day she thinks of a potentially lost item.
“I have found that each day I will think of a piece of jewelry and check for it,” Hurley said. “Sometimes it is there, sometimes it is not. It’s a really scary feeling knowing that someone made it into our home although we had our doors locked.”
Hurley criticized the police for appearing to “brush off” the items lost in the burglary at her house, saying that she was “unimpressed” with their conduct.
Ewing said that when people rifle through their home after noticing things are stolen, it can complicate the process of finding evidence. Also, the unknown timeline of the burglaries can hamper on finding who is responsible. Ewing said they would find who is responsible, it was just a matter of time
“Ultimately, we end up finding out who did the crimes,” Ewing said. “We’re hoping we can wrap this up. We have the confidence, it always comes around.”
Ewing said that the best way to prevent burglaries is to be proactive, by securing doors and having neighbors, or even the police, do property checks.
“Make sure every window is locked,” Ewing said. ”If someone in the area is staying, have them check. The sooner we know something is happening, the better evidence we can collect. If need be, we can do a property check.”