by Terry Duffy
Lewiston Police officers are continuing their investigations into a rash of burglaries that have hit area residences of late, including a number in the village and town.
"There have been eight burglaries from December, two in the village and six in the town," Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada said.
Salada said the LPD, working with the Niagara County Sheriff's Office and State Police, have dealt with home break-ins both above and below the hill.
"The burglaries were all over the place," Salada said. "Not just in Lewiston, they've been in Porter. I know that the sheriff's department and us have extra marked and unmarked cars specific for this problem. We've had them out looking for different things."
So just where in Lewiston have burglars struck? "One on the Ridge Road area just outside the village, two in the Hillside Drive area, on North Fifth Street, East Eddy Drive, Lauren Court, one on Elm Drive," Salada said.
He said the burglaries all have had a similar MO - doors and or windows pried open and small items taken, with burglars stealing jewelry, drugs or other valuables, and then snatching a pillowcase at the home to make off with the loot. He said other residents have dealt with forced break-ins with doors or windows opened, but for the most part, the burglars have had easy entry.
Thus far, LPD has made two arrests over the past month from the burglary complaints. Carly G. McEvoy, 24, of Niagara Falls, was arrested and charged with burglary in the second degree and petit larceny after she unlawfully entered a Ridge Road residence and stole prescription medication and other valuables from the home. Police were alerted by the 65-year-old homeowner who returned home to find items missing.
"We made that arrest from physical evidence at the scene," Salada said.
The other arrest stemmed from a vehicle/traffic stop at Ninth and Center streets, where Lewiston Police linked items found in a vehicle to the recent burglaries. Scott Amsdill, 26, of Lewiston was charged with criminal possession of stolen property, fifth degree, and aggravated unlicensed operation from the pullover.
"We found some evidence in the vehicle linking him to some of these cases," Salada said. "We're still pursing leads, we're still pursuing evidence, processing evidence, we are by far no where near done investigating these burglaries."
In both arrests, Lewiston Police were alerted at the onset by residents. And Salada strongly urges residents remain vigilant and not hesitate to contact police on any suspicions, no matter how trivial they feel their complaint may be.
"We want people to be cognizant of what's going on their neighborhood. They're the best on knowing who and who does not belong," he said. "The problem we run into is that people will think in their mind that it's not worth calling the police on some things. But a lot of times we find that after an incident occurred, people will tell us, 'Well, I did hear something overnight.' We want them to call ... even if they (think) it's minimal or might not be anything.
"Eventually, we're going to stop the right person that's doing things. Or at least we can identify if they're out, identify to see if they fit as to why they're there."
As to safeguarding one's home against a possible break-in, Salada had a number of suggestions. The simplest could start with adjusting one's routine.
"Some similarities (in these burglaries) were that people were away for several hours. Late afternoon into the early evening hours, light to dark," he said. "They (homeowners) should be leaving lights on. Put the house in a position where it looks like someone is home. I know it's difficult because some people have work schedules, but change up your routines. People see a routine. They see you leave; see when you're at home. That gives people an idea of your routine. Take a look at your house."
And one way of doing that is by contacting Lewiston Police. The department offers home security checks where Lewiston officers visit residences, conduct evaluations and provide useful information for residents to prevent break-ins. "We have officers who will come out to your house. It's specific to assessing your home and making you less of a target," Salada said. "We'll check out the locks on your doors, we'll check out your lighting, interior, exterior lighting, we'll go as far as to look at shrubbery or bushes around the house that are blocking windows, that people can hide (in).
"We'll go in, fill out a form, give you a checklist, give you recommendations on what you can do to make your house a little safer, less appealing to a criminal," he said.
Another is for residents to be vigilant of any suspicious activity - unknown individuals, vehicles, etc. - they may see in their neighborhoods and report it to police. Noting one common complaint - suspicious persons who oftentimes turn out to be solicitors in the area - Salada said the simplest way is for residents to call police and find out.
"There have been some solicitors out there, but that particular instance (a recent suspicious persons complaint) is not specific to all of these (burglaries).
"If someone is soliciting and you feel they're not legitimate, call us, we'll come out and check. And make sure they have a permit," he said. "There's nothing wrong (with calling). It's easy for us to do. We want people to call more, if it doesn't fit ... call here, stop in if they have a question, at least it will be someone that we'll know."
Salada said home security checks could be arranged by calling the Lewiston Police Creek Road office at 754-8477 and scheduling an appointment for an officer visit.
"Call during the week, schedule it, we'll be as accommodating time-wise, day-wise, as we can," he said.
In closing, Salada stressed residents pay attention to what is going on their neighborhood, what may be questionable, and what may be suspicious. And do not hesitate to call the police, at 9-11 or the LPD number listed above.
He said area police agencies have not let up in their burglary investigations. "We're still working on it, we're going to continue to work on it, until every lead is exhausted. We're out at pawn shops, we're checking all sorts of things."
His advice to residents: "Remain cognizant, and contact Lewiston Police."