Break-ins Shake Up Stamford Residents

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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State Police Lt. Reginald Trayah, left, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Hurley of the Bennington County Sheriff's Department talk crime in Stamford. Select Board member Helen Fields is at right.
STAMFORD, Vt. — Townspeople are demanding better communication after a number of daytime break-ins here and in Clarksburg, Mass.

A dozen or so residents of the bordering towns attended a special meeting of the Select Board on Monday to meet with law-enforcement officers and discuss preventative measures.

The most recent burglary in Stamford was at a residence on Mill Road from which jewelry, a laptop computer and several diabetic syringes were stolen on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Clarksburg homeowner Anthony Liporace said his house on Mountain View Drive was broken into on Saturday afternoon on Oct. 31; break-ins have also been reported on Henderson and Horrigan roads in Clarksburg.

The town has no police force or constable and depends on the state police from the Shaftsbury barracks, which covers a dozen rural towns, most on the other side of the mountain range that slices across Southern Vermont. The Bennington County Sheriff's Department is also headquartered 45 minutes away in Bennington but is contracted to cover Stamford for at least 20 hours a week. That will be expanded to 30 hours next month.

State Police Lt. Reginald Trayah, station commander of the Shaftsbury barracks, said there hasn't been a significant jump in property crime. Since May, Stamford has had four incidents (one in May; one a stolen ATV) and Readsboro has had five.

The link in the latest break-ins appears to be a young man in a black sweat shirt knocking on doors and claiming he's looking for a lost dog. He may be casing houses to see if the owners are home. Trayah said another tactic used by burglars is to call the home — and keep calling until no one answers.

"We did have an incident here where a gentleman knocked on a door and said he was looking for a lost dog," said Trayah. "Later on [the homeowner] saw the same young man walking down the road with a [sweat shirt] hood over his head. But the thing is we're finding out about this days after the fact."

Trayah described the burglaries as "snatch and grabs," but Liporace said the individual who'd rifled his home and also made off with jewelry and a laptop had taken his time searching through drawers and putting things back in the middle of the afternoon.

"These people have no fear of being caught or they're extremely desperate," he said. His fiancée had actually entered the house while the burglar was still inside and saw him scrambling out the front door. The man ran into a neighbor's yard and dropped a Halloween mask he was wearing.

Liporace said he learned later that a neighbor on nearby MacArthur Drive was working in the basement of his home earlier the same day when he heard knocking on the front door. When he got upstairs, he heard someone trying to get in the back door and opened it to find a young man in a black, hooded sweat shirt claiming he was looking for his dog.

Trayah and Staff Sgt. Andrew Hurley of the Bennington County Sheriff's Department urged residents to report any suspicious behavior and not to enter their homes if they think it had been broken into. Nor should they confront a suspected burglar. Hurley also said Sheriff Chad D. Schmidt was willing to work with the town on the coverage schedule.

"If you see something that doesn't seem right ... call us. I'd rather send a trooper down here 100 times to find out it's somebody selling magazines door to door or a vacumm cleaner salesman going door to door than have somebody not call us and then end up finding it was one of these 'snatch and grabs,'" said Trayah. "If it feels suspicious, if it looks suspicious, call us."

Several Stamford residents, however, were upset that they hadn't learned of the break-ins earlier.

"One of the biggest problems in our town is people aren't informed when stuff like this happens," said James Sarkis, who added that a neighbor a few houses away from him had been burglarized. "I didn't know until three weeks after the fact that it happened."

Residents can't be alert to suspicious behavior, he said, "if we don't know these things are happening."

Select Board member Helen Fields said that was the point of the meeting, to let residents know what was going on. Board members had only recently learned of the incidents, she said, and pulled the meeting with police together in a couple days, taking advantage of the special meeting set to deal with town truck issue.

"We don't need to be working against each other," she said. "We know that's our job [to inform citizens] that's why we're having this meeting."

Those at the meeting discussed better ways of disseminating information beyond the traditional postings at the town office and Bilmont's Country Store. Fields said the town had been distributing sign-up sheets to residents who wanted to be informed of events by e-mail but had received only eight responses.

Other suggestions were to use the marquee sign at the school, post to the town's Web site, use a telephone tree and also start a crime watch.

Trayah said his force would help in providing information on how to start crime watches and phone trees with one caveat.

"The first phone call has to be to us."

The dispatcher at the Shaftsbury barracks can be reached at 442-5421 or call 911. Select Board member Sheila Lawrence reminded residents who use Massachusetts cell phone numbers to alert dispatchers to that fact.
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