WHEELING- Wheeling police have had their hands full over the past several weeks looking for burglars and breaking and entering suspects.
In separate cases - one on Dec. 31 and another on Wednesday - frantic individuals called 911 to report waking up and finding burglars in their homes in broad daylight.
At 7:58 a.m. on New Years Eve, police responded to call at a North Erie Street residence on Wheeling Island after a woman reported a burglar was stealing jewelry and cash from her bedroom while she was asleep in the living room. She described him as a while male, about 30 years old, approximately 6 ft. tall with a thin build and scruffy facial hair. He was last seen wearing a gray or black toboggan cap, a gray zip-up hoodie sweatshirt, khaki cargo pants and carrying a tan messenger style bag over his shoulder. The victim told police the intruder had a "dirty" appearance.
Then at 2 p.m. Jan. 8, a woman woke up and found a stranger standing at the foot of her bed holding a crow bar . The man fled before police arrived at the East 28th home. On the way out of the house, the intruder dropped the crow bar and two laptop computers in the kitchen area.
The cases are part of a recent spike in home and business robberies, including:
- Nov. 22- An intruder stole cash from video lottery machines during an overnight breaking and entering at Mace's Club, 205 Fulton St.
- Dec. 1-A burglary and destruction of property occurred at Bae Mar Place apartment. The occupant told police he was sleeping when he heard glass breaking and found his front door shattered. Nothing was taken.
- Dec. 2-A breaking and entering at a 315 North York St. garage on Wheeling Island netted a thief miscellaneous tools.
- Dec. 15-During a 2:45 a.m. breaking and entering at Corner Pocket Billiards and Cafe on McCulloch Street, a man threw a rock to break open the back door and enter the business. The burglar stole thousands of dollars inside the cash register and cash box. He also caused significant damage to the building.
- Dec 18- During an evening burglary, someone broke into a Glenhite Ave. home and stole Christmas gifts.
- Dec. 19- A burglar entered a Vermont Street home on Wheeling Island during daylight hours and stole a mechanic's tool set from a bedroom.
- Dec. 20-Residents of a Carmel Road home arrived at home at 6:15 p.m. and discovered a front window had been shattered and someone had ransacked two bedrooms, emptied a jewelry box and searched through a medicine cabinet.
- Dec. 20-An intruder stole miscellaneous tools during a daytime breaking and entering at a house being renovated on North Huron St., Wheeling Island.
- Dec. 23-An intruder stole several items from an occupied motor home parked at 4801 Water St. during a daytime burglary.
- Dec. 23-An intruder stole some tools from a house under renovation on Romney Road.
- Dec. 23-A resident returned home at 41 Pike Street and found someone had thrown a brick through a window and kicked a door in; and removed a computer and television from the home.
- Dec. 26-An intruder cut a lock and gained entry into a shed in the back yard at 403 S. Huron St. and then stole a generator and miscellaneous tools.
- Dec. 31- A woman awoke at her North Erie Street residence on Wheeling Island to find a burglar was stealing jewelry and cash from her bedroom while she was asleep in the living room.
- Jan. 2-Somebody stole an antique silver plate from a Hawthorne Court residence.
- Jan. 8-A woman awoke at about 2 p.m. and discovered a man holding a crow bar standing at the foot of her bed looking at her. He fled the E. 28th St. residence before police arrived.
Wheeling Police Department Deputy Chief Martin Kimball said police don't use the term "home invasion" in their procedures.
"We classify these cases as burglary or breaking and entering," he said. "Typically, burglaries involved intruders entering a home or structure where people are living. B&Es are unlawful entry to businesses."
Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Shawn Turak said West Virginia law does not define home invasions.
"We have no home invasion law per se," she said. "It's just a term that has come into vogue."
Kimball said the driving motive behind most robbery and material theft is drug related.
"They are either looking for drugs and for things they can steal and sell to get money to buy drugs," he said.
Drug activity is not the only motivator to push someone toward theft.
Kimball said people may victimize a neighbor or family member as some sort of payback if they feel they have been wronged. They may also steal under the justification of a perceived debt collection.
"There are a lot of reasons people choose to do this type of behavior," he said. "We encourage residents to be vigilant in protecting themselves. One way they can do that is to think like a thief. Look for your own vulnerabilities and make it as difficult as possible for people to get access to your home and property."
Kimball said some people unknowingly advertise what they have by telling neighbors or friends about new purchases.
"I encourage residents to refrain from using social media to announce new purchases or to talk about plans to travel," he said.
He also asks for people to be on the lookout for out-of-place vehicles in their neighborhoods and for service and delivery trucks and vans present during non-business hours.
Police urge anyone with information regarding any of the incidents to contact the department at 304-234-3664.