Spike in Westport burglaries 'cyclical,' police say
Following a series of residential burglaries during the last two months in the Saugatuck section of town, a Westport man charged in connection with one of the incidents could face new charges.
Jamel Washington, 24, was charged Dec. 22 by police with second-degree burglary and third-degree criminal trespass for burglarizing a home on Burritts Landing, a side street that intersects with Saugatuck Avenue. Westport police plan to seek an arrest warrant for Washington in Norwalk Superior Court related to his suspected role in other recent Saugatuck break-ins, according to police Capt. Sam Arciola.
The string of burglaries in Saugatuck correlates to a townwide increase in property crimes during the last year. In 2011, 68 burglaries were reported in Westport, a 55 percent increase over the 2010 tally of reported burglaries. That spike in incidents, however, does not indicate that town residents are more susceptible to burglaries, Arciola said. He also noted that the 44 burglaries in 2010 reflected the lowest annual total between 2002 and 2011.
"It's cyclical when it comes to studying the information and statistics," he said. "You get one person or one group of people, which can create a big difference in the numbers based on their behavior and if they're out there committing a lot of burglaries and they haven't been caught."
In 2006, 77 burglaries were reported, a peak in the annual number of burglaries in Westport between 2002 and 2011. Several burglaries committed by two individuals, who were later apprehended and each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, contributed to the surge in break-ins that year, Arciola said.
From 2002 through 2011, an average of approximately 60 burglaries was reported each year in Westport.
More InformationTRACKING BURGLARIES Annual number of burglaries reported in Westport, as complied by Westport Police Department 2011 -- 68 burglaries 2010 -- 44 burglaries 2009 -- 56 burglaries 2008 -- 60 burglaries 2007 -- 60 burglaries 2006 -- 77 burglaries 2005 -- 52 burglaries 2004 -- 51 burglaries 2003 -- 68 burglaries 2002 -- 59 burglaries
"Those numbers in themselves -- we would like them to be much lower," Arciola added. "It has been pretty much a number, which over a 10-year period, which seems to be a standard."
Home safety continues to be a concern for many residents.
A daytime burglary Nov. 9 at one Westport woman's house prompted a change in her family's daily routines, said the Long Lots Road resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of being targeted for another break-in.
Burglars of that home stole a laptop, jewelry, an iPod Touch and two cameras after breaking in by smashing a back-door window. The home's alarm system was not turned when the incident occurred, but the woman said officers who responded to the incident told her that an activated alarm would not have necessarily prevented the burglary, given the apparent swiftness of the perpetrators.
"It changed the way we're living right now. We leave the alarm on while we're in the house," she said. "As soon as we come in, we lock the door. I think we're reacting to something that's a very real threat."
While the Long Lots Road resident said she previously allowed her 13-year-old daughter to briefly supervise her other daughter, a 10-year-old, while they were unattended, she said she no longer feels comfortable leaving the girls by themselves in their house at any time.
During the burglary of the Burritts Landing home that reportedly involved Washington, residents were at home at the time, according to police.
Most residential burglaries in Westport in 2011 occurred during the day before 6 p.m., Arciola said. Unless a crime is recorded on camera, the average time a burglar spends inside a home in Westport is "relatively unknown," he added.
Arciola recommended that residents adopt a "vigilant" approach to assess potential risks in their neighborhoods.
"Anytime they observe any suspicious activity or if something doesn't feel right or look right, it doesn't hurt to write down the license plate information or call the Police Department to check it out," he said.
"Good neighborliness goes a long way," he said.
Aside from the recent burglaries in Saugatuck, police statistics do not indicate that certain neighborhoods in Westport have been targeted by criminals in recent years, Arciola added.
He pointed out, however, that police face several challenges in prosecuting perpetrators of property crimes.
"It's in our best interests to capture these people before they commit other crimes, but burglary is a hard crime to solve," he said. "Unless you have someone witnessing the event or some physical evidence is left behind, it's hard to link these individuals to these crimes."
No arrests have been made so far in connection with the burglary at the Long Lots Road home. The break-in at her house has changed her perception of Westport, the Long Lots resident added.
"There's a vulnerability there now," she said. "It just doesn't feel like the same town."
Annual number of burglaries reported in Westport, as complied by Westport Police Department
2011 -- 68 burglaries
2010 -- 44 burglaries
2009 -- 56 burglaries
2008 -- 60 burglaries
2007 -- 60 burglaries
2006 -- 77 burglaries
2005 -- 52 burglaries
2004 -- 51 burglaries
2003 -- 68 burglaries
2002 -- 59 burglaries