HARPSWELL — When Harpswell Auto Sales owner Gene Graffam opened the doors to his business Nov. 5, it didn’t take long to notice something was wrong.
The tires neatly stacked near the window had been moved. The window was open. Inside, the garage was ransacked. Missing were various tools, including a diagnostic machine and vehicle inspection stickers. The thieves also stole a 9mm pistol Graffam kept near the counter. He estimated between $10,000 and $12,000 worth of goods were taken.
Graffam, who bought the business five years ago from his father, said he had never seen anything like it.
“This has never happened to us before, not in 25 years,” Graffam said. “It just shocks you to see something like that.”
Graffam is just one of the victims of a rash of recent burglaries in Harpswell. According to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, there were six burglaries reported during September and October. The perpetrators have recently picked up the pace, committing 11 additional thefts at homes and businesses since Nov. 1, bringing the three-month total to 17.
According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, the majority of thefts took place at unlocked structures. The residential burglaries have occurred during the daytime. Five were reported at “unoccupied camps” in the Abner Point area near Bailey Island, while another four were at non-residential structures.
Three rifles have been stolen, according to the department.
Bernie Johnson, an employee at Glen’s Lobsters on Mackerel Cove, confirmed that the business was among those hit. Johnson said employees arrived at work on Nov. 2 to find six crates of lobsters – about 540 pounds – had been stolen, a loss of about $2,000. The crates were tied to floats in the cove, Johnson said.
“Anyone can take them,” Johnson said. “There’s not a lot anyone can do about it.”
Graffam said he doesn’t have much hope that the thieves will be caught.
“The (cops) took fingerprints and everything, but you know how that goes,” he said. “I don’t think they found much.”
Harpswell, which contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for a full-time deputy, has a splintered geography with residents and businesses scattered among its islands and points. There are also many seasonal residences in the community.
Sheriff’s Department representatives did not return calls for comment Wednesday. However, in their press release, they urged residents to secure their properties whenever they’re not occupied. They also asked residents to be “extra vigilant” and to report any suspicious activity.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org