Home construction sites appeal to thieves

Building materials, large appliances taken

police increase patrols

August 09, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Houses under construction filled with new refrigerators, microwaves and whirlpool tubs are attracting so many thieves in Baltimore County that police have stepped up patrols in construction areas.

This year, Baltimore County police have reported 101 cases of burglaries at home construction sites, primarily in the high-growth areas of Owings Mills and White Marsh. That's 15 more incidents than the same period last year.

"It parallels the construction activity," said Bill Toohey, Baltimore County police spokesman. "Criminals are exploiting it, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by it."

By prying open locked doors, thieves have been taking "anything that can be put on a dolly," including dishwashers, refrigerators and microwave ovens, Toohey said. They're also taking construction materials from houses without doors. Since May 28, 38 incidents have been reported. Eighteen involved stolen appliances, and the rest stolen construction material, police said.

Capt. Stephen Vaughan in the Garrison Precinct said the boom in housing construction has made it more difficult to patrol the areas. "We have more areas with construction than we have officers to patrol them," he said.

Police, however, have increased patrols through residential areas with construction, he said.

Ryland Homes, a major contractor in Baltimore County, has been burglarized primarily in the company's fully furnished model sale centers, said Ryan Houck, a company spokesman.

"From the burglar's perspective, one of the most common places to go to would be a sales center," he said.

Toohey said such burglaries are popular because it's a low-risk crime. The crimes typically occur Friday afternoon to Monday morning, when sites are usually vacant.

"You're unlikely to encounter a homeowner, and there's a market for this sort of thing," he said.

He said police are unsure where the thieves are unloading the stolen property but said they might be selling the items to smaller contractors.

"You just can't sell a refrigerator on a corner somewhere," Toohey said.

Houck said Ryland Homes, which is selling homes in four Baltimore County communities, is used to dealing with such burglaries. The company has equipped each sales center with a security system, as well as training sales representatives how to respond if an intruder enters a home.

"We are doing everything in our power to prevent or deter burglaries," Houck said.

Vaughan said people who live near the areas should keep an eye out and call police if they see suspicious activity. "That's what will help us the most," he said.

Pub Date: 8/09/99

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