PARKERSBURG - City police are investigating a string of burglaries targeting vacant homes and residences of elderly citizens.
"We have had a rash of burglaries on the north end in the last three weeks or so, and we're working those as diligently as we can," said Sgt. Greg Nangle with the police department's detective bureau.
Nangle estimated there have been 10 to 12 incidents of homes being entered or a suspect attempting to gain entry to homes north of 23rd Street, in areas including Morningside Drive, Morningside Circle, Cadillac Drive, Packard Street and Woodland Park.
More recently, there have been three to five similar reports on the south side of town, including a suspect who entered an Erie Street residence during the day and fled when confronted by the homeowner, he said.
Incidents have generally occurred between 2 and 4 a.m., but some have also happened during daylight hours, Nangle said.
"We've had officers and detectives working special details ... in the middle of the night," he said.
Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to contact Parkersburg Police at 304-424-8440 or online at www.parkersburgpolice.com. Tips can be left anonymously.
Nangle declined to give specific addresses for the burglaries because he did not want to publicize residences of elderly individuals who might then be targeted by criminals.
Items taken have been easy to carry, including cash, jewelry and guns, he said.
It's not known if any or all of the crimes are connected, but Nangle said they do share some similarities.
"I will say it's somewhat odd to have several victims who would be considered somewhat elderly in the same area of the city," he said. "We've had several vacant houses broken into. ... The suspect may be targeting vacant houses."
There have been reports of someone knocking on a home's door in early morning hours, and Nangle said this may be an attempt to see if anyone is home before entry is attempted. An elderly resident might not answer the door, leading the suspect to assume no one is home.
On a handful of occasions, a resident has seen someone entering or attempting to break in, at which point the suspect flees, Nangle said.
"Nobody's been hurt. Nobody's even been touched," he said.
Avery Street resident Betty Rollins, a former Neighborhood Watch president, said a woman recently told her about a pair of unusual early morning visitors.
"I've got a neighbor next door to me, and she had a couple of boys at her door between 5 and 6 a.m. wanting money," she said.
The young men claimed to be seeking donations for a memorial for a sister who recently passed away, Rollins said.
The thought of people looking for houses to break into concerns Rollins, who noted she lives near vacant houses. In the past, she's asked the caretaker of one of those homes to leave a light on overnight so it won't be obvious that it's unoccupied.
"It may have a for-sale sign before long, and that's another dead giveaway," she said.
If someone does receive a suspicious knock on the door, Nangle said the person should call 911 and try to provide as much information about the individual or individuals and their vehicle as possible - from within the house.
"We don't want citizens going outside their homes to confront them," he said.
People can protect their homes by locking their doors day and night.
"Go ahead and check the windows because the person or persons ... are checking windows and coming in through windows and coming in through doors," Nangle said.
He encourages residents to leave outside lights on in their front and back yards and consider leaving some lights on overnight in the house as well. If a person is going on vacation, they should notify a trusted neighbor or family member and have them check on the house from time to time. That's how some of the recent burglaries have been discovered.