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Jewelry thief has police stumped, residents nervous

This map by graphic artist Molly Quinn shows jewelry burglaries that have hit Spokane in the past two months. (The Spokesman-Review)
This map by graphic artist Molly Quinn shows jewelry burglaries that have hit Spokane in the past two months. (The Spokesman-Review)

Six homes in Susan Morgan’s neighborhood had been already been robbed when two more were hit just down the street. So the Southgate neighborhood resident had a home alarm system installed, and many of her neighbors plan to do the same, she said. She’s also working to make it apparent that hers is a Block Watch neighborhood.

Since Nov. 22, there have been 41 residential burglaries in Spokane, 28 on the South Hill and 13 in the northwest part of the city, according to Spokane police. In most of the cases, the burglar enters the house through a door, goes straight to the master bedroom to steal jewelry, then leaves, said Spokane Police Sgt. Keith Cummings. The break-ins are all taking place in the late afternoon.

The crime spree has Spokane police detectives at a loss.

“There’s no witness information, no forensic evidence” and the jewelry is not turning up anywhere police can find it, Cummings said. “This (amount of burglaries) is highly unusual, and they (the suspects) are good at it. People are seeing them and not seeing them at the same time.”

The detective suggested the perpetrator must be someone who looks as if he’s supposed to be there, like a delivery person. “The guess would be they are staking out houses, waiting for people to leave and breaking in,” Cummings said.

Authorities suspect one person is behind most the burglaries. “There are multiple burglaries where it’s glaringly obvious it’s the same person,” said Cummings, adding just a few of the recent incidents have involved other thieves.

As far as the investigation, “what we can do with it right now is pretty limited,” he said. As far as potential victims, he added, “get to know your neighbors. Talk to them. Get to know their routines, and make sure they know yours.”

Morgan already was a member of Block Watch, but the recent South Hill burglaries have her and her neighbors feeling anxious. The most recent burglary, on Jan. 14, was in Morgan’s neighborhood at 51st Avenue and Woodfield Lane.

Southgate neighborhood residents got together for a regular meeting last week and the burglaries were the main topic of conversation.

“Having your house burglarized, or even your garage broken in to, is very personal,” said Maurece Vulcano, director of Spokane’s C.O.P.S. program. “But you have to back up and see what you can do for prevention. That’s where Block Watch comes in.”

Police say just a Block Watch sign hanging from a street post makes a thief think twice about targeting a particular house or neighborhood.

At the Southgate neighborhood meeting, Vulcano told everyone to get to know each other before they left. “The more heads that come together with solutions, the better off you are going to be.”

Contact Jody Lawrence-Turner at (509) 459-5593 or