Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Neighbors Rally together to Fight Crime

Posted on Sunday, September 2, 2007 by No comments yet

Matt Ryan of the Burlington Free Press yesterday covered a troubling story that’s been a hot topic of conversation on the Westford Neighborhood Forum for some time…

Harmony Schutt and her neighbors on Osgood Hill Road in Westford are fed up with theft.

The thieves, whom victims identify as neighborhood teens, break into cars and homes to steal mostly beer, gas and loose change, but the petty crimes are costing homeowners more than just stolen property…

Schutt lives alone and said her house has been broken into six times this summer. Schutt’s house is hidden from the road behind a row of trees, which makes it an easy target, Schutt said. The most recent break-in occurred Aug. 22 when thieves broke her sliding glass door to get in. The door will cost between $650 and $850 to fix, Schutt said. Thieves have cut holes in screens to unlock windows and have stolen wine, beer, cash and condoms. She called Vermont State Police and recently installed a surveillance camera to deter criminals.

The police “say they can’t do anything, so I’m hoping to catch them on that little camera,” Schutt said.

Local victims are turning to other means…

A few neighbors had posted signs in their yards asking for stolen items to be returned. One sign, nailed to a telephone pole, read, “Two 18-packs of beer — $35. Money in truck — $17. Look on thieves faces when caught — priceless.”

Rose Elder, 52, said thieves stole a cooler of beer from her son’s truck in her driveway and have siphoned gas from her car.

“They steal just the easy stuff that they can take,” Elder said. Warren Oalican, who lives next door to Elder and across the road from Schutt, responded to a message Schutt posted on Front Porch Forum, an online site where neighbors can share information. Oalican, 38, said he’s been trying to organize his neighbors to stop theft.

“We’ve been here three years, and ever since we moved in, I was aware there was a crime problem,” Oalican said, citing theft, loitering and underage drinking. “It’s been really bad in the past three or four months.” He said he had not had anything stolen.

Oalican, who lives with his wife, 2-year-old son and 4-month old daughter, said he worries about the potential for homeowners and criminals to get into violent confrontations.

“I don’t care why you broke into my house, you might as well be after my kids,” Oalican said. “I don’t want people to get hurt.”

UPDATE:  Seven Days reported on this story this week too…

The irony is that locals believe they know exactly who is committing the crimes — the neighborhood email listserv, Front Porch Forum, has been abuzz with speculation.

Posted in: Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Local Online, Media, Neighborhood, Social Media, Stories, Vermont

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