SHIRLEY -- Reacting to a spate of residential break-ins over the last few weeks, Interim Police Chief Robert DeMoura reached out to the local press to raise awareness.
"Be vigilant," advised Officer Everett Moody, a department veteran whose job includes detective work such as investigating burglaries and trying to track down stolen goods, which in a few past cases on his watch were eventually returned to their owners.
Despite diligent police work, not all cases get solved. But Moody recalled one that was: A string of so called "45-second" burglaries a year or so ago in which young women operating together stole jewelry and other small valuables from homes around town.
Linked by their consistent mode of operation, the quck, in-and-out nature of the crimes led to the label, he said.
Those culprits were caught, but prevention is still the first line of defense against theft.
In a brief interview at the police station Monday morning, Moody suggested simple, common sense precautions residents can take such as locking doors in their homes and vehicles and keeping an eye out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
In one recent theft, tools worth about $3,000 were taken from a job site near the Presidents Building on Leominster Road.
In another, a high-end bicycle worth nearly $4,000, along with a bike helmet and shoes were stolen from a home on Weatherbee Road.
In a third incident, a power leaf blower and other tools and equipment were taken from a garage on Maple Street. The theft was reported after the homeowner's son came to borrow the leaf blower. Discovering it was gone, the man and his father searched the garage and found other items were missing as well, Moody said.
Two or three weeks ago, burglars entered a home on Lancaster Road through an unlocked basement window and stole a big screen TV from the first floor while the residents slept upstairs. Moody said that with doors shut and air conditioners on, they didn't hear the intruders, who smashed a table by the window on their way in and left by the front door.
"Be sure to lock all your doors and windows," Moody advised. That means day and night, not just in the house but vehicles, too, even when you are at home, either indoors or outdoors. "Thieves could get into the house while you're working in the yard," he said.
And keep an eye on your neighbor's house, too. Neighborhood crime watches are very helpful, but they don't have to be organized to work. Call the police to report anything unusual going on at the house next door or elsewhere in the neighborhood, he suggested.
He also said it's a good idea to take pictures of valuables in your home, just in case. Snapshots of stolen items can help police recover and return them, Moody said.
Any information callers provide could be key, he said, such as the color of a strange vehicle or the plate number. While police prefer that callers identify themselves, it's not mandatory, Officer Moody said, and they can remain anonymous if they choose to do so.