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Tips lead to arrests in North Deering burglaries

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Tips lead to arrests in North Deering burglaries

PORTLAND — Four people have been arrested in connection with a rash of burglaries in the North Deering neighborhood.

Police Officer Andjelko Napijalo would not give details about the arrests because the investigation is still in progress.

But Napijalo partially attributed the arrests to tips from attentive residents, some of whom have been participating in a new neighborhood crime watch program. Napijalo said the program has led to the demise of a suspected drug house on Newton Street. 

"I've already seen results," said Napijalo, the Sector 6 lead officer. "That's how we arrest people, when people call us with information."

Although no burglaries have been reported over the last week, Napijalo said neighborhood residents need to stay on their toes.

"When we talk about burglaries, it's an ongoing thing," he said. "With having people watch what's going on in their neighborhood, they can prevent to deter future activities."

Crime in North Deering shifted in May from traffic-related complaints to residential burglaries. Most recent crime statistics indicate there were 15 burglaries last month, 13 residential and two commercial.

Meanwhile, there were four motor vehicle burglaries and 13 theft reports.

Tim St. Hilare, president of the North Deering Neighborhood Association, said the group began laying the foundation for a crime watch last year. Planning hit its stride in January, he said.

Those connections, St. Hilare said, put the neighborhood in a good position to react to the recent crime spree.

"Most recently, we have turned up the volume because of the recent break-ins," he said. "It's about making connections and us taking the initiative to get to know one another so you can see things that are out of the ordinary."

When residents sign up for the neighborhood watch, police provide information about the types of suspicious activity that should be reported. It also includes tips for remembering important details, so police can have an accurate description of their suspects.

"It's definitely going to help," Napijalo said.

Napijalo said area businesses, including Allspeed Cyclery & Snow, Paris Farmer's Union, Two Guys Cleaning Service, Cunningham Security, Starbucks Coffee and PIA Insurance Agency, have agreed to purchase new neighborhood watch signs for the city to post.

Neighborhood residents, local businesses and city officials celebrated the new partnership last weekend.

Both St. Hilare and Napijalo said the program is not a substitute for police patrols in the area. But having neighborhood watch signs in a neighborhood often is enough to deter burglars.

"It's a visual statement to the bad guys when they're walking through a neighborhood they are being watched," Napijalo said.

The neighborhood watch is one of four police are looking to create in Sector 6. Napijalo said he is working with City Councilor Cheryl Leeman to start a crime watch in East Deering.

Others are planned for the Back Cove and Riverton. The latter has already begun taking root.

"We're fortunate to have Officer Napijalo, who has done an awful lot of work – even on his days off," St. Hilare said. "We have made a lot of connections. I think that in itself will be a deterrent (to crime)."

On July 17, there will be a neighborhood block party to increase the number of residents in the crime watch program. It will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at North Deering Gardens, 246 Auburn St.

Anyone interested in joining the neighborhood watch may contact St. Hilare at 632-5228 or tsthilare@maine.rr.com.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net