LINCOLN, Maine — Police Chief Scott Minckler will take the unusual step of calling a community meeting to discuss the rash of burglaries to hit town since June 1, officials said Tuesday.
Minckler invited residents to meet him at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mattanawcook Academy cafeteria to discuss what the Police Department is doing to solve the crimes.
He will tell residents how to safeguard against burglaries and home invasions and how to form anti-crime efforts such as neighborhood watches. Residents also can discuss their concerns in a question-and-answer period, Minckler said in a press statement.
Town Manager Lisa Goodwin encouraged residents to attend.
“This is one of those times where the community has to respond as an entire community and pull together,” Goodwin said last week.
Minckler was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
At least 12 business, residential and vehicle burglaries have occurred in town since June 1, police have said. Mike’s Auto Repair on River Road and Ramsay Welding & Machine Inc. on Enfield Road are among four businesses and homes burglars hit from July 1 to 3, Minckler has said.
The July burglaries join a half-dozen break-ins or attempted break-ins, in which more than $2,000 worth of items were stolen in early June.
The Ballard Hill Community Center on Pleasant Street, Lincoln Trading & Pawn at 29 West Broadway, several vehicles parked downtown and an Evergreen Drive home were burglarized or targeted last month, police have said.
Nintendo Wii video game consoles and games, loose change, small appliances and some prescription drugs were stolen. Police have located and returned a Nintendo Wii console and several other stolen items to the town’s recreation department, although no arrests have been made.
Most of the burglaries appear to be quick-hit break-ins in which the thief or thieves are looking for items that can produce cash quickly, such as jewelry or small appliances. Loose change also has been stolen, police have said.
In most cases, items were easily taken and doors and windows were unlocked or forced open.
Police, who are pursuing several leads, have warned residents to lock their homes and vehicles and to report any suspicious activity by calling 794-8455, but their appeals have generated little response, Minckler has said.
A Massachusetts native, Minckler started in Lincoln on March 1, joining a department that consists of six full-time officers, several part-timers and no detectives. Most of the officers have fewer than five years of full-time experience.
Goodwin doubted that police inexperience has much, if anything, to do with the string of burglaries.
“We have reserve officers that have a lot of experience,” she said, “and they [police] have help from other agencies.”
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department is assisting police with the burglary investigation. Sheriff’s deputies and state police also ride through town frequently on patrols of Penobscot County and assist police.
The Town Council occasionally has discussed creating a full-time detective position but resisted the move, citing cost concerns.
Burglaries also are notoriously difficult crimes to solve, Goodwin said. On July 11, Old Town police identified four suspects in a string of nearly 90 vehicle break-ins in the community that they said extend as far back as last winter.
Of those, a few have been solved and those were isolated incidents, Old Town police have said. The rest occurred in waves, with multiple vehicles being struck overnight. Most of the stolen items were high-end electronics, including GPS units, cell phones, cameras and iPods.
An adult and juvenile have been arrested in the Old Town burglaries, and another adult has been summoned.
Nationally, police case-closure rates for burglaries hover at or below 25 percent. It is impossible to determine the number of burglaries that occur in a community, as many go unnoticed or unreported.
“A lot of it [catching burglars] is luck,” Goodwin said. “It is much easier for them [burglars] to watch police and know where they are than it is for police to know where [burglars] are.”
Goodwin said it is too soon to go into details about police investigative efforts to stop the burglaries, but “it is not business as usual.”