Harford police detectives believe a string of 60 burglaries and attempted burglaries in the county last month could be related to more than 100 similar break-ins in Baltimore County.
Investigators have not determined whether an individual or a group of thieves is responsible for the burglaries, which have occurred from Abingdon to Jarrettsville between March 25 and April 30.
DeWayne D. Curry, spokesman for the county Sheriff's Department, said investigators from the department are working with the BaltimoreCounty Police Department on the burglaries.
Detectives from the Bel Air Police Department and the state police at the Benson barracks also are working on the case.
State police Tfc. Jeffrey W. McCormack said the string of Baltimore County break-ins started before the first burglary in Harford, but the burglars have followed the same pattern of entering the houses at night and stealing mostly money.
In most of the break-ins, burglars have entered the houses by prying open windows or sliding-glass doors while residents were asleep, police said.
"To actually go into the houses at night with people in the residence -- it's not your typical burglar," McCormack said.
Burglars usually enter houses during the day while homeowners are out. They are most often looking to steal valuable items, such as jewelry and videocassette recorders, which are later sold, McCormack said. They usually only hit one house in a neighborhood at a time.
In the recent rash of burglaries, the burglars have mostly stolen briefcases, wallets and pocketbooks containing cash, credit
cards and identification cards, police said.
All but the money has been recovered in most cases.
Police estimate that the value of the stolen goods and damage to the houses total more than $15,000.
Police note the break-ins have occurred in neighborhoods where few crimes have been reported in the past.
The Major's Choice neighborhood in Bel Air, amiddle-class area of new town houses and detached homes, has been hardest-hit by the burglars.
Nineteen break-ins and attempted break-ins were reported by homeowners in a two-day period that ended April 15, police said.
Investigators do not believe the thieves intendedto harm homeowners because they fled the house in a few cases when residents saw intruders in their homes, McCormack said.
Police arenot connecting any reported burglaries in the past two weeks to the string of break-ins in late March and April. But investigators are actively pursuing leads in the connected cases.
"(The burglaries) are getting enough publicity and the heat's turned up, so the burglars are laying low," McCormack said.
With the string of burglaries at least temporarily broken, McCormack said it might be difficult to catch suspects.
"The best way to catch them is to catch them in the act," McCormack said.
Despite the lull in the break-ins, police areurging residents to work on crime prevention: Leave outdoor lights on during the night and keep a watch for unfamiliar vehicles in the neighborhood.
Janet Thomas, president of the Major's Choice Homeowners Association, said her group is forming a Neighborhood Watch program to start citizen street patrols and keep an eye out for suspicious people or activity.
The association also sponsored a meeting with police investigators to provide crime-prevention tips to the residents of the neighborhood's 450 homes, Thomas said.
After the burglaries in the neighborhood occurred, Thomas said at least four homeownerson her block began turning on their outdoor lights during the night.Now only two do so.
"I guess people are feeling easier about it,"she said.
Anyone with information about the burglaries should call the Sheriff's Department at 838-6600, the state police at 838-4101 or Bel Air police at 838-3120.
NEIGHBORHOODS HIT BY BURGLARIES
Major's Choice.. .. .. ..19
Southampton.. .. .. .. ...6
Green Ridge.. .. .. .. .. 4
Bright Oaks.. .. .. .. .. 3
Marywood.. .. .. .. .. .. 3
Parliament Ridge.. .. .. .3
Foutain Glen.. .. .. .. ..2
Foxborough Farm.. .. .. ..2
White Oak.. .. .. .. .. . 2
Greenbrier Hills.. .. .. .1
Temple Hills.. .. .. .. ..1
Abingdon.. .. .. .. .. .. 9
Jarrettsville.. .. .. .. .3
Fallston.. .. .. .. .. .. 2
Forest Hill.. .. .. .. .. 1
Source: Bel Air Police Department, ccounty Sheriff's Department and state police.