About 300 residents of West Andover filled the auditorium of the Wood Hill Middle and High Plain Elementary schools last week, seeking answers to a smattering of house break-ins plaguing their neighborhoods.
Sgt. Mark Higginbottom answered dozens of questions after giving a brief presentation of the problem along with some suggestions on how to thwart would-be burglars.
“We’re never going to stop it,” Higginbottom told the crowd, which gave him, detective Kevin Aufiero and police Chief Patrick Keefe a round of applause at the end of the meeting. “But together, we might be able to slow it down.”
The forum was organized by a grassroots group of West Andover residents who were concerned that since the beginning of the year, there have been four house breaks in their part of town, along with the occasional car break-in.
More worrisome was that there were three house breaks reported in less than a two-week period, starting on Monday, March 24, when someone broke into a house on Bailey Road between 12:30 and 2 p.m. and stole electronics and jewelry.
The following week, on April 9, someone broke into a house on Grey Birch Road by smashing a pane of glass on a door to the garage. Stereo equipment, a couple of laptops and a home amplifier were reported stolen, according to police. That break occurred at 5:45 p.m. when a 14-year-old girl was in the house. Higginbottom said the girl was in the shower during the break-in and didn’t realize the house had been robbed until after she got out.
Higginbottom said the Grey Birch Road break-in rattled people because there was someone home, but he told the anxious residents last week that in most cases, the burglars would rather not encounter anyone.
“That one was concerning to us,” he said. “We don’t usually see them that late.” He added that it is likely that whoever broke into that house “didn’t know someone was home.”