LINCOLN, Maine — Video surveillance, alert neighbors and a suspect’s arrest might help investigators end a burglary spree that has hit at least 35 Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes region businesses dating to the summer, officials said Saturday.
Steve Springer, age unavailable, of Mattawamkeag was charged Saturday with two counts of burglary and a single count of burglary to a motor vehicle after police caught him fleeing the scene of three burglaries on or near Route 2 early Saturday, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said.
Almy and Lincoln Public Safety Director Dan Summers said Springer is suspected of belonging to a burglary ring of about a dozen suspects that a police task force has been chasing since the break-ins began in mid-July.
“Mr. Springer is cooperating with police and it may be because of his cooperation that we will be able to link him to other crimes,” Almy said Saturday. “We may be able to confirm who helped [commit] the burglaries.”
Springer was charged with burglarizing Haskell Lumber at 431 Main St., Roger’s Small Engine Repair at 260 Main St., and a motor vehicle early Saturday, Almy and Summers said.
The amount of money and items taken was still being compiled. Summers believed the burglaries occurred sometime before 6 a.m. Details are somewhat sketchy because the investigation is ongoing, said Summers, who hopes to review police reports on Monday.
A surveillance videotape taken from one of the businesses, and neighbors who identified Springer as the man they saw riding a bicycle through the neighborhood immediately after the burglaries, helped a Lincoln police officer find and charge Springer with the three break-ins on Saturday, Almy said.
Almy complimented police and the owner of the camera-equipped business for good and quick work early Saturday morning. The owner came immediately to his business to allow police to have the recording from his camera. That, and a neighbor telling police that Springer was seen leaving the area on a bicycle, allowed police enough of a description to track the suspect, Almy said.
“Police also caught him in possession of what seemed to be some of the material that was taken from one of the businesses,” said Almy, who has conferred with police several times on the burglaries since Thursday.
“The fact that they [neighbors, businesses and police] responded to this right away demonstrates the overall cognizance by the community of the burglaries and the problem they represent to the town,” Almy added.
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, Summers has said.
East Millinocket police also are investigating two business burglaries reported on Oct. 21 in Medway for which Springer is a person of interest, East Millinocket Police Chief Cameron McDunnah said.
East Millinocket police collected evidence at an Irving convenience store and D&M Trailer Sales and Service in Medway when the burglaries were reported that day and from Lincoln police on Saturday, McDunnah said.
The crimes followed an unsophisticated pattern, police have said, as the burglars have smashed windows or doors and stolen cash registers at several businesses, usually after the businesses closed or before their morning openings. They probably seek money or items that they can fence for cash to buy drugs, police have said.
The burglars have been difficult to catch, police said, because they employ lookouts and have been monitoring police radio transmissions to track patrols. They might also be calling in false complaints or waiting for police to respond to other calls to buy time for the break-ins.
The first Katahdin region crimes reportedly linked to the Lincoln Lakes region burglaries, Medway’s break-ins fit the pattern. A side window at D&M Sales was broken out and the cash register emptied. A store clerk at Irving scared off the burglar when she almost walked into him as the clerk headed toward the rear office and back door, McDunnah said.
“He wasn’t in there long,” McDunnah said of the burglar.
The Medway burglaries were the first reported in that town or East Millinocket in months, McDunnah said. He met with Lincoln police after the burglaries to confer about possible links to East Millinocket and Medway crimes and said they had a great deal of information about them. State police, the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department and Lincoln police have worked hard on the burglary cases since the burglaries began, Almy said.
Anyone with information about the burglaries in Lincoln can call 794-8455. East Millinocket police can be reached at 746-3555, while anyone reporting or sharing information on the other burglaries can call the Sheriff’s Department at 945-4636.