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Home intrusions rattle nerves

Natalie St. John

Published on September 12, 2017 3:49PM

SEAVIEW — A quiet Saturday night took an unsettling turn when an intruder entered several Seaview properties while residents were home.

The unidentified man didn’t hurt anyone or take anything during the Sept. 2 incidents, according to the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office. Still, homeowners were unnerved when they swapped stories and realized the man likely tried to break into five occupied homes in one night.

“I wanted people just basically to know that doggone it, there is somebody around that is coming in while people are home — intentionally,” Seaview resident Karen Robinson said on Sept. 11. She and her husband, George, believe the intruder tried unsuccessfully to get into their home on K Place. She posted a warning in local Facebook groups after learning that in two cases, the invader came face-to-face with residents before fleeing.

The incidents are a reminder that even small-town residents need to take personal and home security measures, PCSO Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said.

In through the window

One of Robinson’s neighbors was in her upstairs bedroom at about 10:15 p.m. on Sept. 2, when she heard a strange noise on her roof.

“At first she thought maybe it was a squirrel or raccoon. Then she got to thinking maybe it was a bear — it sounded bigger,” said Robinson, who talked to her the next day. The woman went downstairs to tell her husband, who was watching TV. He wasn’t overly concerned.

However, as his wife passed through the kitchen, she was stunned to see a skinny young man rushing down the stairs. It was a warm night, and they had left an upstairs window open.

“I’ll be darned if this guy didn’t come down to the landing,” Robinson said.

As her husband rushed into the kitchen, the woman grabbed the first thing she saw — a kitchen chair — wielding it as a makeshift shield.

“She and her husband were screaming yelling at him to get out,” Matlock said. After fumbling with the kitchen door for a moment, the man got it open and fled. The couple called 911.

“He never took anything, apparently never said a word,” Matlock said.

Stranger in the tree

The couple provided deputies with a description. The intruder, they said, was a roughly 5’9” Caucasian man in his 20s. He had short, blondish-brown hair and a clean-shaven face. He wore faded jeans and a gray and red windbreaker.

A short time later, a nearby family called 911 to say they’d discovered a man who fit that description sitting in a tree in their yard. When he was discovered, he ran into the dunes near 45th Street, Matlock said. Deputies took reports from both households and searched the neighborhood and nearby dunes, but never found him.

Up on the rooftops

The sequence of the visits isn’t entirely clear, Robinson said, but she and two neighbors think he visited them, too.

A street away, an older woman who lives alone heard something large crashing around on her roof that night.

On the same street where the intruder came in through the upstairs window, a father was watching TV with his kids, when a confused-looking young man suddenly walked in through the front door. Seeing the family on the sofa, the man apologized and quickly left.

Robinson said the father figured he had accidentally walked into the wrong house, so he didn’t call 911. He only began to realize it might have been a weak attempt at a home invasion when he heard about the other incidents the next day.

Around 10:30 the same night, the Robinsons’ cat was asleep on George Robinson’s lap, when a noise suddenly made the feline straighten up and look toward the kitchen.

Robinson thought it was odd. But, he too, was more curious than concerned. At least until the next day, when he and Karen discovered someone had been fiddling with the handle on a glass storm door by their kitchen.

“It was sticking straight up, which is not its natural position,” Karen Robinson said. It looked like someone had also tried the door to a breezeway along one side of the house.

“It was open about two inches, and we never leave it open,” Robinson said.

Something squirrelly

Burglaries are common at Peninsula vacation homes, Matlock said. Because many homes are empty much of the year, they’re tempting to thieves in search of valuables that are easy to sell or pawn. Break-ins at occupied homes are not unheard of, but far less common, Matlock said. There haven’t been any similar incidents in Seaview since Sept. 2. Investigators have no leads on the suspect, he said, but if they catch him, he could be charged with residential burglary.

People who saw the intruder said he seemed disoriented. They thought he was probably high, Matlock said.

Robinson said he thinks he was possibly looking for quick cash — wallets or purses he could grab before dashing back out again.

She and her husband aren’t necessarily frightened, but they are being a bit more vigilant. They realized they needed to move a ladder that was leaning against their home. They’re being more careful about locking upstairs windows.

“Hopefully, people will just be a little more aware of what’s going on,” Robinson said. “If you hear noises, don’t assume it’s the local squirrel.”

Safety tips

“Unfortunately, a burglar does not need to look around very long to discover welcome signs unwittingly left around many of our homes and properties,” Matlock said. He urged readers to take the following crime-prevention measures:

• Lock all doors and windows before going to bed or leaving, even for a short time.

• Don’t store extra keys in predictable places, such as under doormats, inside flower pots or on top of a door-jamb.

• Leave lights on when away after dark. For long trips away from home, automatic timers for lights are recommended.

• Don’t keep garage-door openers in vehicles or in other visible locations.

• Before going on a trip, place a hold on mail, newspapers and anything that could signal an absence.

• Arrange to have the lawn mowed during extended absences.

• Install deadbolt locks. They are more secure than standard locks.

• Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. If possible, replace them.

• Store expensive items, such as lawn mowers and bikes, in a locked building. Put shades or curtains over garage and shed windows.

• When keys are lost or stolen, change the locks immediately. Have locks changed before moving into a new rental or home.

• Make sure home exteriors are well-lit. Police recommend motion-sensitive flood lights.

• Trim plants next to homes to eliminate hiding places for trespassers.

• Do not go inside a home if the windows have been broken or the doors are open. Call 911 and wait for an emergency responder to arrive.

• Don’t clean up the scene of a burglary until police have inspected it for evidence.

• If you see something suspicious, record license-plate numbers. Make note of vehicle and suspect descriptions if it is safe to do so.

• Make a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions. Include descriptions, prices, purchases dates and serial numbers. Keep a copy in a safe place away from your home. Taking video around the home is also a good measure.

• Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, report it to law enforcement.


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