A string of break-ins targeted cars parked at the Waldo County YMCA in Belfast on late Friday afternoon, the latest in a rash of similar incidents in the area, police said.
The culprits, police said, may be an organized group targeting gyms.
“It’s indicative it’s an organized crew, if they’re going from gym to gym and doing the same thing at each parking lot,” said Belfast Police Chief Bobby Cormier. “The [modus operandi] fits the profile of an organized theft gang.”
Cormier said there was a similar incident at the Blue Hill YMCA this weekend and recently at Moose Point State Park, though law enforcement haven’t confirmed if the incidents are connected.
In Belfast Friday, five cars had windows smashed, according to Waldo County YMCA CEO Russell Werkman. Three other cars were unlocked and had items stolen as well. Security camera footage shows cars driving around the parking lot and stopping next to the different cars for about 30 minutes, he said.
On Saturday, two vehicles were broken into at the Blue Hill YMCA, according to Matt Montgomery, the branch executive. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office was called and, after looking at surveillance footage, it appears a similar car was used in both the Belfast thefts and the Hancock County break-ins.
“I told members ‘don’t leave anything of value in there,’” Montgomery said Monday.
There was some cold comfort that it doesn’t appear the culprits are from within the Blue Hill community, he added.
In Belfast, there were other people in the lot when the break-ins happened, Werkman said, but the perpetrators worked discreetly.
“There were people walking by that car. They must have been very, very good thieves to not make noise, not attract suspicion,” he said.
Cormier said wallets and purses were stolen in Belfast. Some of the property was recovered in Bucksport.
Four cars were also broken into at the facility on Veteran’s Day, Werkman said.
The YMCA’s members feel violated, Werkman said.
Searsport resident Victoria Dufresne was waiting for her son to finish basketball practice when she found out her car windows had been smashed. She said her wallet with credit cards, a driver’s license and $250 intended for Christmas shopping were all stolen. The thieves also took a present Dufresne had bought for her son.
Dufresne is, of course, upset about losing her Christmas shopping money. But she is most concerned about the risk to her private information, particularly her home address.
“I honestly don’t even want to go back to the Y,” she said.
Dufresne is comforted by the YMCA’s effort to help members feel safer.
The Waldo County YMCA will install a new security camera that will better capture license plates. The facility is also encouraging members to bring their valuables inside. Still, he recognizes it will take more than that to make members feel safe.
“It feels like shutting the barn door after the horse has gotten out. Security cameras are great, but they don’t stop theft. We’ve all gotta be vigilant and take care of each other,” he said.
Dufresne said she’ll continue taking her kids to the Y, in spite of the fear.
“You can’t teach them to be a quitter when something bad happens,” she said. “I’m trying not to dwell on it. Trying to think positive and push forward.”
Police have not yet identified suspects, Cormier said.
BDN writer Ethan Genter contributed to this story.