Amherst Police successfully prevent break-in’s

By Cameron Ford

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Traditionally, there is a significant increase in break-in’s in college towns during school breaks. With an array of student houses, dorms and apartments vacated for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the like, these areas become perfect targets for burglars.

Luckily, Officer Bill Laramee of the Amherst Police Department (APD) has created a program to put an end to that.

His break-in awareness program, dubbed S.T.O.P. (an acronym for “Secure,” “Take,” “Out of sight” and “Patrols”) targets the public to increase awareness regarding a recent surge in break-ins in and around the Amherst area.

“[Since June] there’s probably been around 75 or more break[-ins],” said Laramee during a phone interview.

“The [breaking] was initially a real problem in South Amherst, and then it became kind of town-wide, and it looks like the same issues are occurring in Hadley and Northampton,” he added.

The S.T.O.P. program has consisted of the distribution of flyers and door hangers around the Amherst area reminding residents to “secure” their homes and belongings, “take” valuable items with them upon departure, keep valuable items that cannot be taken “out of sight,” and that there will be APD “patrols” to look for suspicious activity.

According to Laramee, the S.T.O.P. program seems to be making progress on achieving its goals.

“I think … we’re pretty good,” he said. “Areas that were typically hit hard in years past were untouched. We didn’t have any breaks in the apartment complexes.”

Traditionally, Laramee went on, it is “not too often” that incidents of breaking and entering in Amherst result in recovery of stolen property. However, APD recently was able to track down a stolen iPad and purse using Google Maps and an Apple application.

“We were able to pinpoint right where it was,” he said.

While this rare conclusion to a breaking and entering case was uplifting, it failed to result in an arrest. However, Laramee stated APD’s belief that the string of break-ins has been carried out by a common perpetrator.

“We’re assuming this based on the method of entry and the fact that there’s been very little physical evidence left behind that the same person or groups of people is responsible for this,” he said.

The S.T.O.P. program has been working in unison with the University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD)’s “Like It, Lock It, Keep It” program, which has been used to increase awareness amongst students and staff about the possibility of break-ins at any time.

According to UMPD Deputy Chief of Police Patrick Archbald, the University of Massachusetts experiences break-ins over school vacations as well.

“The academic buildings will sometimes get hit,” he said. “You know, it might be a lab, or a microscope or a piece of electronic equipment, laptops for example.

“So we are aware that without the population here … [we need to] refocus our energies back towards the academic area and do a lot of patrols here during the breaks,” he added.

Laramee offered one last bit of advice for the community at large.

“Be vigilant,” he said. “If you see any suspicious activity, please report it to us.”

Cameron Ford can be reached at [email protected]