2017-07-28 / Community

Suspect arrested in Ferry Village burglaries

Stolen items include firearm of Cape Elizabeth police officer
By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — While an arrest has been made in a string of seven home burglaries in South Portland’s Ferry Village neighborhood, stolen items still unrecovered include the service revolver of a part-time Cape Elizabeth police officer.

According to a press release issued late Sunday, July 23, by South Portland Police Department Det. Christopher Todd, transient Eric James Becker, 36, was arrested the previous day and charged with two of the home burglaries in a spree that extended from May 19 through July 17.

Originally of Bangor but most recently staying in and around Portland, Becker was still being held at the Cumberland County Jail as of Tuesday, having been unable to post the $10,000 bail set in the case. According to Det. Scott Corbett, who continues to investigate the case, Becker made an initial court appearance on Monday, but has not yet filed a plea.

“He is not being cooperative and so far is not talking much about any of the burglaries or probable locations for the items that were stolen,” Corbett said. “We are still actively investigating to see if we can conclusively tie him to any of the other burglaries in the area.”

Although the city’s online Lexis Nexis Community Crime Map does not indicate any home burglaries in Ferry Village for May, it does include one June 23 incident on High Street and two on June 28 on Pine Street, followed by break-ins July 7 on Stanford Street, July 8 on Oak Street, July 18 on Harriet Street, and later on July 18 on Pine Street. In addition to the seven postings for breaking and entering, the system also reports thefts from homes on High Street on July 6 and July 13.

Neither Corbett or Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams would say Wednesday morning which of the incidents resulted in the missing Cape Elizabeth Police Department firearm, or name the officer involved.

Williams said his department has no formal policy on securing a service weapon when off duty, and no disciplinary action is warranted.

“Most of the time the officers leave it in their locker at work, locked up,” Williams said. “In this particular case the reserve officer had been to the firing range and had taken it home afterward to clean. We would have preferred that after he had cleaned it he had brought it here to the station rather than leaving it at home, but things happen. Technically, there was not violation of policy.”

Corbett said the weapon was not secured.

“That’s a part we’re still looking at, but it was in a location where the burglar was able to obtain it,” he said.

“This happens way too often in homes where weapons are stolen and, unfortunately, it happened to be the home of a reserve police officer in this case,” Williams said. “It’s a very unfortunate circumstance and very disturbing to us.”

Although in some cases homeowners were asleep while the burglar was rummaging through their home, in the case of the Cape officer, nobody was at home at the time. The Glock service revolver was not loaded and no ammunition was taken, Williams said.

Corbett said he is tacking leads to determine the weapon’s current whereabouts.

“Firearms are so easy to transfer between people. Criminals use them almost as a kind of money for all sorts of illegal transactions, trading them for drugs and things,” he said. “Something like that can quickly end up as far away as New York in a matter of days, having traded hands several times.”

Corbett said the burglar, whether the person charged or others, broke into homes at various times taking whatever looked easy to unload in a hurry, including cash, gift cards, jewelry and electronics. Becker was charged when video from a greater Portland area pawn shop – Corbett declined to say which one – showed Becker selling an identified tablet computer.

“I am looking for evidence to connect him to the other burglaries in the area, as well,” he said. “But what he took was very, very random, with much of it highly difficult to trace, or tie to a particular home, if recovered.”

Although some of the thefts involved unlocked doors, most involved discreet break-ins, Corbett said.

“However he could gain entry without too much attention being brought to himself, that’s what he did,” Corbett said.

Although Corbett was not able to provide a detailed list, he said Becker is not unknown to police.

“Let’s just say he does have a criminal history,” he said.

South Portland Police Department Spokesman Lt. Frank Clark said the department communicates to the public through the Lexis Nexus system.

“We have and will continue to make information available to the public to enhance their safety,” Clark said. “We balance that with our ability to be able to effectively investigate incidents and put people responsible for victimizing our community members behind bars where they belong, preferably before they become aware of our efforts to do so.” Clark said the seven home burglaries in Ferry Village are the only seven that have occurred in that area this year, and in was only the middle of last week when officers were able to being tying the incidents together as possibly related.

“Our year to date burglary statistics, citywide, remain less, albeit comparable, to last year – 35 vs. 38,” Clark said.

“The detectives have really been working their butts off on this and made really good progress,” Police Chief Ed Googins said. “Of course the residents should always be vigilant but the best thing they can do is to use this app that we offer. It’s really amazing technology. But, again, it was only this week that it became apparent that there may be any kind of a pattern. Until then, we only knew we had five previous burglaries spread over a fairly wide area. Still, our crime statistics for things like this are trending downward, with this year, so far, the second lowers on record.”

“We routinely attempt to maintain public awareness via our website, social media outlets, and community newsletter,” Clark said. “Along those lines, and specifically in regards to our hope of keeping the public informed of crime issues in their neighborhood, we also provide an excellent crime mapping resource, which is updated daily and remains available at all times on our website at http://communitycrimemap.com/?address=South+Portland,ME.

“This application cannot only be proactively searched and viewed, but can be set it up to electronically alert folks every time a new police report is filed within a certain radius of their home or business,” Clark said.

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