What happens when your home is broken into? The Valley Reporter talked to Vermont State Police Middlesex station manager Lt. Matt Nally to find out what police are asking and doing in responding to a report of burglary.
When the Route 2 barracks receives a call about a home break-in, "If there's the threat that perpetrators are still in the house, then obviously we expedite response," Nally said. In most cases, however, people return to an unoccupied home to find rooms in disarray and items missing, Nally explained. In those cases, "Normally we will respond if we are able, but everything is triaged," he said. "Sometimes we would be heading to a call and some domestic violence or an accident with an injury comes in and we need to pull our resources."
When police are able to respond to a call with a visit to the residence, they interview the homeowner as well as see as what they can collect as far as physical evidence, Nally explained. "If there's anything obvious that can be dusted for prints, like a pane of glass with obvious fingermarks or blood ... it would be removed from the home if it's easy to do so," Nally said, and sent for testing either at the barracks or the lab. But the investigation does not stop there.
In the days and weeks after a break-in, "We do follow-up in checking the pawn shops" to see if any of the missing items turn up, Nally said, as well as patrol online sites like Craigslist and Front Porch Forum for posts advertising those same items for sale.
According to Nally, burglaries have decreased in recent years, "But that doesn't mean we're not getting as many thefts," he said.
A crime is classified as a burglary if it involves breaking and entering, the lieutenant explained. If it doesn't, it's a theft or larceny. "If your car's not locked and somebody walks up to your car and steals your purse ... they didn't break into your car, they committed a larceny," Nally said. Likewise, somebody who steals something out of an unlocked shed is a thief.
At the Middlesex station, Nally said they get a lot of calls reporting burglaries that were in fact larcenies or thefts. "I think there's a lot of confusion," he said.
But, definitions aside, one thing that small, rural areas can do to prevent home break-ins is to organize a Neighborhood Watch, Nally said. According to him, it's important for everyone to get to know those who live around them. In that way, "If someone's heading out of town they can say, 'If you see any cars in the driveway, they're not supposed to be there,'" Nally said.
Neighborhood Watch "lets people take ownership of their communities," Nally said, "so if they see something, they know what is normal and what's not normal."