Recent burglaries in Oxford, Seymour and Shelton were all fueled by addiction to prescription pills and heroin, according to police.
“People are desperate. They do desperate things. That is the bottom line,” Seymour police Lt. Paul Satkowski said.
The desire for pills and heroin is an underlying cause for an increase in burglaries and larcenies in at least two Valley towns.
Stats released from the Seymour Police Department Wednesday show substantial increases in burglaries and larcenies during 2011.
There were 62 burglaries reported in 2011 — a 35 percent increase over the 46 burglaries reported in 2010.
There were 168 larcenies reported in Seymour in 2011 — a 34 percent increase from 2010.
“(The burglaries) are all over. It’s not just Seymour. It’s everywhere,” Satkowski said.
Police in Seymour made three arrests in recent months of men suspected of a string of break-ins and larcenies in Seymour, Oxford and Shelton, among other towns. The three cases aren’t directly related, but police in each town said the suspects were motivated by a desire for drugs.
“It’s the same old trend — drugs,” said Detective Ben Trabka of Shelton, where burglaries and larcenies are up 11 and 18 percent from 2010.
Painkiller Abuse Is Skyrocketing
In terms of drug abuse, the lower Valley is not alone.
A story in the New York Times Jan. 11 showed that oxycodone prescriptions increased by a whopping 82 percent between 2007 and 2010.
Meanwhile, the number of people visiting U.S. emergency rooms for the treatment of “nonmedical” use of painkillers rose astronomically between 2004 and 2009, according to
the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
People going to the ER for oxycodone issues increased 256 percent between 2004 and 2009.
People on hydromorphone, another highly addictive pain killer, increased a mind-blowing 324 percent during that same time period. Click here to read the findings for yourself.
People going to the ER on heroin lags behind those on cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. But the people on heroin are younger — between 21 and 24, according to the report.
Trabka said the pattern locally in recent years is as follows:
A person gets addicted to prescription pills such as oxycodone, a powerful painkiller. Their tolerance to the drug increases, so they take more pills or buy pills with more milligrams.
But painkillers aren’t cheap and are usually $1 per milligram, Trabka said. So a 25 milligram pill is $25 — two 60 milligram posts are $120.
The person’s addiction grows while money runs out. Maybe a few years ago the addict could hit up his or her family for cash. That disappears, because the bridge is burned or the family is out of money themselves.
Eventually, the addict starts burglarizing houses to feed the addiction. The addict may switch to heroin, which has a similar high and isn’t as expensive. But the cycle repeats itself as the addict’s body builds a tolerance to heroin, police said.
“They are people looking to support bad habits and they’ll go to any extent to support those bad habits,” Satkowski said. “Burglaries are one way to support the habit because they go after the jewelry.”
Places To Sell
Both Trabka and Satkowski said what has changed is the plethora of places to sell stuff addicts steal, especially jewelry.
The price of gold and precious metals rose sharply when the recession hit in 2008. “Cash for Gold”-type places starting popping up with a vengeance. Some companies travel, swinging by a hotel conference room for a weekend and offering people cash for jewelry.
Kiosks in malls offer the same service — and so do traditional mom-and-pop jewelry stores.
“You watch television,” Satkowski said. “How many commercials are there for ‘get cash for gold?’ How many advertisements are there in the paper? People who are desperate see this and they know if they can get jewelry they can get cash.”
Trabka questioned the ethics of some of the shops that give cash for jewelry.
“You’d think some of the regular mom and pop stores would have some ethics, but we’re finding the money is just too good,” Trabka said. “When you have a 20-year-old kid coming in for the third time in a week supposedly with his dead mom’s jewelry, there’s obviously a problem. Come on.”
Once the addict steals the stuff, sells it for cash, he or she taps into whatever network they’re using to score pills or heroin.
In the case of pills, the network is often doctors who don’t pay attention, Trabka said. Or it’s people who had legitimate prescriptions looking to make a buck by selling their pills.
“There’s whole system of people out there who just go and get pills. They doctor shop. They go to pain management clinics. Unfortunately, often one agency isn’t looking at another agency,” Trabka said.
To Catch A (Drug Addicted) Thief
On Friday, Jan. 13, Shelton police arrested Robert Murhamer, a 24-year-old city resident. He is suspected in several burglaries in Shelton, Derby, Middlebury and Seymour.
Murhamer has a pill addiction, police said.
Seymour was experiencing so many burglaries in the fall the town used its Code Red emergency notification system to send telephone messages and texts telling residents to be on the lookout.
Meanwhile, Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler extended the work days for the detective division and assigned a Community Police Officer to assist detectives who were searching for the burglar (or burglars).
“At any given time there were five to seven detectives in unmarked department vehicles patrolling neighborhoods, in addition to patrol personnel in marked police vehicles,” according to a letter to the Seymour Board of Police Commissioners from Detective Sgt. Stephen Prajer.
As the pressure was on, detectives responded to nine burglar alarms, initiated 18 suspicious activity calls and conducted 11 motor vehicle stops, according to Prajer.
The pressure paid off Dec. 21 at about 11:30 a.m., when 18-year-old Colin Driscoll came home and noticed a strange car in his driveway. No one should have been home. Then he saw a light go off inside the house.
Driscoll called police while Douglas Fast, the 47-year-old suspect, left in a Taurus. Police were on him quickly, pulling him over within a half-mile of the house.
Fast took off, police said, leading officers on a five-mile chase that ended on Route 8.
Fast faces 10 criminal charges, including first-degree burglary and engaging police in a pursuit. Police said he has been connected to three other burglaries in Seymour, as well as other burglaries in Orange, Milford and Fairfield.
He is due back in court Jan. 24.
Fast’s arrest came about 11 weeks after police arrested 20-year-old Robert Magi for a string of thefts in burglaries in Oxford and Seymour.
Magi, of Fairfield, has 84 criminal charges pending in Superior Court in Derby. Drug dependency is also thought to have fueled that crime spree.
Finally, Derby’s Amber Belade, 23, has has 27 criminal charges pending against her in Superior Court. Belade and her boyfriend, Collin McCarthy, 44, allegedly stole items from houses all over the lower Valley to fuel their drug habits, according to statements from police.
The pair are even accused of mugging a 91-year-old Derby woman in May.