LENOX, Mass. — The items held as evidence in the case against burglary kingpin Stefan Veremko are being released to their owners.
The Lenox Police Department has been holding hundreds of items seized in November 2009 from Veremko's home, vehicle and areas where he had discarded the property. Veremko's monthslong spree across three states ended when an off-duty officer spotted him fleeing a building - with a pillowcase.
Multiple police agencies were investigating the break-ins, which stretched from Southern Vermont to South County. As a result, Veremko and accomplice Tara Malloy were arrested. The recent conclusion of the case convicting Veremko and giving him five- to seven-year state prison sentence allows police the opportunity to return the seized evidence to the many victims involved with this case, said Chief Stephen E. O'Brien.
Many people came to the Lenox Town Hall on Nov. 19, 2009, to view the vast array of items. Some were able to identify items that indeed belonged to them. While conducting this process, during the exit interview, these victims were asked to provide a phone number at which they could be reached at the conclusion of the case.
Within the next several days, the victims who identified property will be receiving a call from the Lenox Police to arrange for the release of their property. All of the property that was identified will be returned to its rightful owner. For victims from the states of Vermont and New York, their property will be released to the police agency having jurisdiction over the crime. The out-of-state agency will make a determination if that property may be released or if it will remain held pending future criminal action against Veremko and Malloy in their states.
"We are asking for everyone's patience as we attempt to relinquish property in an orderly fashion to be certain that each and every victim recoups their loss," said O'Brien. "We also thank everyone involved for their patience as this case made its way through the criminal court system."
The page was created by Jennifer Breen Kirsch, a local attorney who's become active in crime prevention after her parents' home was broken into days after Christmas. Kirsch, working with the city and local organizations, has spearheaded the community watch group.
The community effort has been prompted by a wave of break-ins that came to public attention last fall after a number of break-ins in Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt. A suspect believed to be the culprit in the majority of them — and dozens of others through Berkshire and Bennington (Vt.) County — was arrested and charged. However, several of those burglaries have not be resolved and numerous others have occurred in Williamstown, North Adams, Adams and Cheshire over recent months.
North Adams held a community meeting on Thursday night at City Hall to discuss crime and neighborhood action to prevent it.
The new Facebook page states:
Please join the new Neighborhood Crime Watch Group sponsored by Mayor Dick Alcombright, the NAPD through Officer Mark Bailey and Commissioner E. John Morocco, community representative Jenn Kirsch, and the NBCC, through Ashley Benson and Al Bashevkin. To find out more, please post questions and we will quickly reply. Our goal is to reduce the crime rate, as a community, in conjunction with City Hall and the NAPD. We need volunteers and neighborhood captains to run meetings. If you are interested, Officer Bailey, along with members of the team, will conduct a meeting for you and your neighbors, at your home. Let's unite under this common goal to reduce crime in our city!
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hosting a community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss neighborhood safety and crime watches. Mayor Richard Alcombright, whose home was burglarized last spring, talked a little about the issue at Friday's Northern Berkshire Community Coaliton forum.
The call for a crime watch is prompted by a spike in burglaries in the city and other parts of Berkshire County and Southern Vermont. The first indication of a rise in the area began last fall with a series of break-ins, many of which police say are linked to a Pittsfield man, Stefan Veremko. More recently, homes in North Adams, Adams, Cheshire and Williamstown have been broken into, including the parents of Jennifer Breen Kirsch.
Kirsch, a former Middlesex prosecutor, criticized the handling of the case and is now spearheading efforts to develop local crime watches.
"I think it's a bold attempt. We're going to bring the city, we're going to bring the private citizen, the Community Coalition together and, hopefully, folks will show up and consider the neighborhood watch as a solution to stopping crime in their neighborhoods," said Alan Bashevkin, executive director of the coalition, of next week's meeting.
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco urged residents to contact the police about starting a neighborhood watch.
"Call us up. We'll show you [how] and we'll guide you through it," he said. "And we won't just leave. We'll show up every month at your meeting. ... But it takes a neighborhood to start a neighborhood watch program it takes somebody to step forward and say 'we're going to do this' and get the neighbors to show up."
In any case, said Morocco, "don't leave your car unlocked, don't leave your house unsecured."
Breaking and enterings, or B&Es, happen anytime, he said. "The recent rash were more bold, daytime, but they happen all times of day and night."
The commissioner said about 85 to 90 percent of all crimes - domestic violence, child abuse, larceny - here and nationwide can be attributed to substance abuse.
Liz Shiner of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, said domestic violence has increased and that the county's rate for retraining orders is 40 percent above the statewide rate. The center would be willing to teach neighborhood crime watches how to deal with domestic violence, she said.
Morocco shared some interesting information about how Veremko allegedly plotted the numerous burglaries across the county and into Vermont over the past year.
According to Morocco, Veremko kept a notebook with a list of likely houses. He'd case the house and look up the phone numbers, call and track when they weren't home. "He'd do his homework," said Morocco. "He was probably the most sophisticated burlglar I've ever seen."
Veremko is being held on $250,000 bail after being arraigned on numerous charges relating to the break-ins.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Here's a name familiar to many in Clarksburg and Stamford — Stefan Veremko.
Veremko was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday afternoon multiple charges related to numerous burglaries across the county between last June 1 and Nov. 19, 2009. The Pittsfield man is suspected in some of the break-ins and attempted break-ins in both Clarksburg and Stamford this past fall. He's also facing charges in the Bennington, Vt., area.
The 28-year-old had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf for 15 counts of breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony; 14 counts of larceny in building; 11 counts of malicious destruction of property worth more than $250; 15 counts of receiving stolen property worth more than $250 and single counts each of possesion of ammunition without a firearms identification card, cruelty to animals and being a common and notorious thief (we'll have to look that one up).
Judge John A. Agostini ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $25,000 cash or $250,000 surety bail. He also was ordered to stay away from the many victims, as well as to have no contact with them if he posts bail.
As most will remember, Veremko was arrested after an off-duty probation officer said he saw him fleeing a building in Lenox with a full pillow case. Veremko allegedly stopped and switched license plates but the officer noted the number and he was arrested at his Dartmouth Street residence.
The investigation was conducted by members of the Lenox, Pittsfield, Dalton, Lanesborough, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Williamstown and Clarksburg police departments and state troopers assigned to the Lee barracks.
The Clarksburg Crime Watch wants to catch a thief and is putting up $1,000 reward to find him or her.
The town was hit by a half-dozen burglaries from September to the beginning of November; most are believed to be the work of Stefan Veremko, a Pittsfield man charged recently in connection of string break-ins running from Southern Vermont to South County.
A number of Clarksburg residents, however, are convinced Veremko wasn't working alone or that a second burglar was working the same territory. Several members of the crime watch, who want to remain anonymous, are offering the reward in hopes of catching the person or persons - and returning residents' peace of mind.
The reward will be given to anyone who comes forward with information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for committing the recent break-in and burglary crimes, particularly one on Mountain View Drive that occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 31.
Residents are asked to call 413-663-7795 with any information they can provide to solve the remaining break-in case (possibly cases) not solved.
In order to claim the reward, you must (1) provide information to the law-enforcement agency that leads to the arrest and conviction of the party responsible for the crime and (2) submit a claim for a reward to Police Chief Michael Williams, who will contact the community watch members on your behalf.
In the event that two or more individuals provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for said crimes, the reward will be apportioned between them as determined appropriate by the watch group. The reward expires on Oct. 31, 2010.
"The Clarksburg Community Watch extends its deepest appreciation to those community members and individuals who have offered this reward. We encourage people to come forward with any information. Please help your community!"