LINCOLN, Maine — If police don’t catch the burglars targeting local businesses soon, Holly Russell said she wouldn’t be surprised if fellow business owners “start taking matters into their own hands.”
“They will start protecting what is theirs,” possibly with weapons, the owner of Razor’s Edge hair salon on West Broadway said Wednesday. “We don’t feel safe in our own town anymore.”
At least 32 burglaries have been reported in Lincoln and surrounding towns since mid-July, police have said. Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Troy Morton and Lincoln police said prosecutors are reviewing the cases, and they expect to make arrests soon.
Charges might be prepared in time for the next grand jury session by the end of the month, Penobscot County District Attorney Christopher Almy said Wednesday.
State, county and Lincoln police have worked together and gathered a great deal of evidence, Almy said, but most of it has not been of comparison quality or good enough to tie suspects to crimes.
“Now [police] are trying to track down witnesses who have heard or seen something,” Almy said. “There is some evidence that we will be using at the next grand jury.”
Almy declined to say how many suspects might be charged. Several West Broadway business owners declined to say Wednesday what police had told them of the burglaries because they feared tipping off the suspects, but what they did comment upon hinted that the burglary ring of as many as a dozen members have used sophisticated methods to pull off the crimes and avoid capture.
Dave Guthrie, owner of the West Broadway pool hall and restaurant, Shooters, said the thieves used blowtorches and pry-bars to cut open his safe and escape with $2,000 cash about three weeks ago. The thieves destroyed the ATM machine at Shooters overnight Sunday but got zero cash in the most recent burglary reported in Lincoln, Guthrie and police said.
Police have said that the burglars have monitored police radios to elude capture. Although police said they have some video surveillance of the thieves from the businesses, the burglars have avoided Main Street, where the town has video cameras.
The burglaries have cost Guthrie about $12,000 in lost cash, two broken doors, the ATM machine and the busted safe, he said. When they have been successful, the burglars have taken $50 to $1,900 per burglary, not counting the property damage, Lincoln police have said.
Shooters, Mainely Rent to Own, F.A. Peabody Co., Lincoln News, Capello Hair Salon and Day Spa, Avanti Bridal and Boutique, Benjamin Tibbetts Inc., North Country Auto and U.S. Cellular are among the businesses on West Broadway in Lincoln hit since July. Another dozen burglaries have been reported in Chester, Lee, Mattawamkeag and Winn, Lincoln police have said.
Burglaries have also been reported in Howland and Enfield businesses and in several Mattawamkeag homes, owners interviewed added Wednesday.
Shooters, Mainely Rent to Own, F.A. Peabody Co., and U.S. Cellular have each been broken into twice, usually through back doors or windows, Russell said. She emptied her cash register before the single attempt at her store. When she came into the salon the next morning, it was clear that the register had been slammed pretty hard against the wall behind it, Russell said.
“I think they were mad at that,” Russell said.
Many of the businesses have responded by keeping the stores well-lit after closing, double-checking doors and window locks and installing security systems. But with each burglary, there comes a loss of innocence and a feeling of violation, Russell said.
“I lived in this town all my life,” Russell said. “Growing up, we never had to lock our doors. It’s not that way any more, that’s for sure.”