A string of break-ins along a Columbia street has police looking for help and apartment complexes stepping up security.
Since January, thieves have broken into nearly three dozen homes and apartments along Tamar Drive in Long Reach, stealing more than $50,000 worth of jewelry, appliances and entertainment sets. Police say it is one of the longest string of break-ins in Columbia.
"These cases have been somewhat difficult to solve because there hasn't been much physical evidence left at the scene," said Detective Roger C. Gleason of the police's criminal investigations unit. "We've come up with a dead end. Usually, when you have a pattern like this, you get a break."
Police say the burglars target unlighted ground-floor apartments and homes from 8:30 to 11 p.m. -- a period when residents are either out or not in bed yet. "They're smashing windows, which is quite bold," Mr. Gleason said. "They take TVs, VCRs. It's a significant problem up and down Tamar Drive."
Because of the similarities in the point of entry and items stolen, police believe the same person or group of people is responsible. Police say the burglars carry their loot along foot paths to a waiting car parked away from the residential areas, ensuring that their license plate numbers won't be recorded by watchful residents. Police say the majority of the burglaries have occurred on Cloudleap Court, Spiral Cut, Hayshed Lane and Lambskin Lane.
"We're putting a lot of resources into it," said Michael J. Sherman, police spokesman. "Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve it quickly."
Although almost all of the break-ins occurred when residents were not home, in one case, a woman returned home and happened on a burglar standing at the top of her staircase. The burglar dropped her television and ran to the back of the house while the woman ran in the other direction to call police.
Some apartment complexes are taking extra steps because of the break-ins. Additional lighting has been installed around Bentana East and West apartments to deter burglars, and a community meeting has been scheduled for next week to discuss the break-ins, according to John Sheehy, a project manager.
"Glass windows have been replaced with Plexiglas windows [to make it harder to break in]," he said. "We've been working actively with the Howard County police."
Police suggest residents turn on lights and pull down the shades if they're going to be out of their homes at night. They're also asking residents to keep an eye on suspicious activity, such as people carrying appliances on the street.
Police distributed crime alert fliers along Tamar Drive last week and are hoping residents with information will call 911 or 313-2220.
Police and Metro Crime Stoppers are offering a reward for information leading to an arrest.