BRATTLEBORO — Police are investigating the most recent burglaries in which windows were smashed, cash registers were taken or tampered with and money was stolen.
Elise Lacroix, business manager at Stop & Go Instant Oil Change, reported that someone broke into her Putney Road business on Monday morning.
“He spent seven minutes trying to remove my cash drawer,” she said.
Learning from a burglary in June, Lacroix had the cash register bolted to a podium. She said the person who broke in Monday used a pry bar from Stop & Go to take a bin holding $50 of cash.
“It’s pretty funny,” she said. “He got so frustrated he punched the cash drawer then used my own tools to remove the inside. It is what is. I guess I can’t keep any cash on the premises, unfortunately.”
Burglaries are becoming an epidemic in Brattleboro, Lacroix said.
“All I can do is prevent my business from being hit,” she said. “And when it is, I want it to be very hard for them to steal from me.”
Next time, Lacroix said, there won’t be anything to take. She also plans to post signs alerting people there’s no cash on site overnight.
Late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, Lotus Graphics was broken into on Canal Street.
“Same M.O. — smash and grab entire cash register, and then take off,” said Ed DeRusha, president of Lotus Graphics. “The most frustrating part is the missing cash register, finding a replacement and getting it programmed. With a $750 to $1,000 commercial glass door repair, and the expense of a new register being about the same $600 to $900, our losses far exceed what they got from the cash register.”
Lacroix, too, noted that the damaged cash register was worth more than the money stolen.
“It goes with people’s software,” she said. “I have to order mine from California. Last time, it took a week to get in.”
DeRusha said he isn’t sure if the break-ins are part of a coordinated effort. He suggested the idea of identifying the vehicle used to cart away a register then having community members and police look out for it.
“I can’t imagine he/she/they would be walking around with a heavy, awkward cash register every time they hit a store,” he said.
Duchess Coffee and Antidote Books on Putney Road reported having a break-in at about 2 a.m. Friday in which money was stolen but the register remained.
“The unidentifiable individual was in and out in 34 seconds,” the business said in a message response to the Reformer. “This was our second break in and the fourth theft since this August.”
Via Instagram, Duchess Coffee thanked “everyone who came through to help us in the aftermath” of Friday’s theft.
“Your presence, generosity, and messages of concern were the salve we needed in the reality of another break in,” the business said.
Lt. Jeremy Evans of the Brattleboro Police Department said the incidents are being actively investigated.
“It’s been a rough fall into the winter,” he said.
Evan James Ltd. Diamond Jewelers & Goldsmiths, Everyone’s Books, Vermont Country Deli, Windham Flowers, Vegan A.F., Taste of Thai, The Stone Church, Jaci’s BBQ Joint and Epsilon Spires are other Brattleboro businesses which have been similarly hit over the year.
“We have been lucky to only suffer vandalism and missed open hours,” Jaci Reynolds, co-owner of Jaci’s BBQ, said Monday. “But fruitless vandalism will lead to robberies during open hours when a cash haul is more likely.”
Reynolds said she will no longer be opening her food truck on Putney Road. She plans to run the business out of the Vermont Marketplace by Exit 1.
“I won’t have staff or myself as sitting ducks on a very dark part of Putney Road,” she said. “The risk of harm to a human is not a risk I am willing to take so we have adjusted our plans.”
In November, community members and business owners filled the meeting room at the Municipal Center to call for cracking down on burglaries and other crime. They suggested increased police presence and surveillance cameras.
This month, Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy proposed the creation of the Brattleboro Resource Assistance Team made up of non-sworn and unarmed individuals to help fill in gaps related to staffing challenges of the police department. Members would perform a variety of field and administrative work in support of basic police operations, while also addressing community safety concerns. The duties of the unit could include taking crash and stolen property reports, and traffic control.
At the same Select Board meeting where the plan was unveiled, Hardy reported burglaries in Brattleboro have increased from last year by 37.25 percent. She said assaults have increased by 15.38 percent, and sexual crimes have increased by 26.47 percent.
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