Brookings Police are investigating an uptick in burglaries around town this fall, which they believe are not likely related to the homeless people who have become more visible in recent months.
The most recent burglary was Jan Sirchuk’s offices in Hemlock Plaza between Railroad and Hemlock streets — which has been burglarized three times in the past two weeks.
“We’re definitely aware of the pattern,” said police Lt. Donny Dotson.
Silver City Coin and Collectibles was burglarized the night before Thanksgiving, and thieves made off with tens of thousands of dollars in valuable coins — before returning the next night to retrieve what they didn’t get the first round. Then Dan’s Automotive, on Chetco Avenue between Pacific and Hillside avenues, was burglarized in early October, with the perpetrators stealing money.
Sirchuk’s computers were stolen the nights of Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 and theives also tried breaking into other offices in the building, Sirchuk said. The perpetrators returned the following night and tried again to break into more offices.
Sirchuk posted surveillance cameras around the building — and now has film footage of a man stealing those cameras early Thursday morning.
His computers have numerous files with development projects of his that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-create, he said. And his personal photographs are on his remaining computer, so he’s been taking it home every night until he can get the pictures backed up.
“My daughter shares the office,” Sirchuk said. “She’s totally frazzled. We just feel like it could happen again any time. It’s making everyone nervous.”
Two residences were also burglarized in Brookings in the same time period, and people have been arrested in conjunction with those, Dotson said.
“The police have been pretty responsive,” Sirchuk said. “But I think they’re pretty busy.”
“It feels like in the last two months — definitely,” he said of an uptick in such activity. “These things go in cycles. One person gets out of jail or moves to the area — like Silver City Coin (first burglary last year). A guy blows into town and we arrest him and it stops. And it may not be one person; it often is more than one. It might be people out of California coming up. They feel a sense of anonymity coming into a different community.”
He also said he doesn’t believe the perpetrators of these recent crimes are from among the homeless population that has become more prevalent throughout the West since September.
“I’m not an FBI profiler, but that doesn’t look like a homeless guy to me,” Dotson said of the man caught on Sirchuk’s video. “We have no reason to think it was a homeless person who perpetrated any of them.”
Dotson said his reports show that, while peoples’ frustration with the newly arrived homeless aren’t ignored, calls to police regarding them are actually down in the past two months.
“It’s obviously a big deal to the victims and the community,” he said. “Our mission is to find the perpetrator. As far as police-solving success rates go, I think we’re pretty good.”
Brookings has an advantage over the sheriff’s office, as it has the manpower to cover the entire city 24/7. Even then, Dotson noted, they can’t be everywhere, all the time.
“It’s no secret we don’t have unlimited staffing,” he said. “If I’m a bad guy with burglary on my mind and I see a police officer on Hemlock, I’m not going to do my burglary on Hemlock. We’ve got a big, big city to patrol at night.”
In the county
Sheriff John Ward’s deputies have been busy hunting down burglars, as well — and he chalks the increase in such events to the time of the year, crimes of opportunity and drug abuse. But he has fewer resources than Brookings — and must cover a much larger area.
“I don’t want to blame it on Christmas,” Ward said of recent burglaries in the county, “but the holidays are here, people are getting desperate, they like to have a little extra money and they steal to supplement their income. It’s that and drug-related. It’s just the time (of year). It happens every December.”
The most problematic issue he’s been facing recently is crime related to drug and alcohol abuse, primarily opioids and heroin.
His deputies have recently responded to burglary calls near Elk River, the north bank of the Rogue River and some in Harbor. All were thefts from residences.
“They’re kind of all over the place; thieves in all the areas,” he said. “But we’ve made a few arrests on them, as well.”
One of those included the recovery of about $12,000 in tools stolen from a workshop near Gold Beach.
In the meantime, Sirchuk has hired someone to guard his property at night.
“Stuff happens,” he said. “OK, I lost a couple computers and some information I didn’t want to lose. But it’s getting old. Three events in less than two weeks; I kind of want to be done with it. People are sick of it.”
He added that citizens have offered him and the police tips in regards to the burglaries at his business, and he appreciates the outpouring of help.
“I’m amazed how many people have been reaching out,” Sirchuk said. “It’s good to see people are willing to speak out, to help you out. It affects all of us.
“Hopeful they’ll come up with something,” he added of police investigations. “I’d really like my stuff back — but what I would really like is those guys put in jail so they don’t steal from someone else.”
Anyone with information in any of these cases can anonymously call Crimestoppers at 541-412-0989. There is a possible reward for information leading to a successful prosecution.
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org .