Police Cmdr. Gene Lillard said the city has seen 30 burglaries, during the last month, which is unusually high.
Some were residential burglaries, but most were of businesses, he said.
“That many in a month is a lot for Montrose and is really going to put our statistics up in the air,” Lillard said. “We typically don’t have a lot of business burglaries.”
Increased efforts by police include stakeouts of potential targets locations and plainclothes undercover police work, he said, but public input is also needed.
“We always rely on the eyes and ears of our public because they see a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call the police station at 252-5200 or Lillard at 970/252-5227.
Lillard said he doesn’t know if the burglaries are connected, but one suspect has been arrested. Most of the burglaries have been of restaurants.
The arrest came after an alarm sounded at the Fiesta Guadalajara Restaurant on west main street on Nov. 14, at about 2:30 a.m. Sgt. Phil Freismuth and Officer Michelle Farmer responded. Freismuth shined his flashlight inside the building and spotted the suspect, who took off past Farmer, who was coming in another entrance, and both officers chased him on foot.
The suspect, Zachary Velasquez, 24, tripped on railroad tracks near the restaurant and was told to stop. When Velasquez kept going, Freismuth shot him with a Taser gun; he was arrested.
Velasquez is charged with second-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief, theft of less than $500 and resisting arrest. Bond is set at $5,000.
Other restaurants burglarized in the last month include the Windmill Restaurant on east main street, the Shanty Restaurant on South Townsend (which was broken into twice), a new Thai restaurant on South Townsend, Starvin’ Arvins on South Townsend, Amelia’s Mexican Restaurant on West Main Street, Pizza Hut on East Main Street, and Café 110 on North Townsend.
The recession is probably a factor in the crime wave, Lillard said.
“I think it probably has a lot to do with the economic turn we’ve had,” he said. “Money is real tight for a lot of people, and some turn to crime.”
Most of the break-ins have involved little property damage, he said; it appears burglars are going straight for the cash. An exception was Pizza Hut, which sustained substantial damage when the burglars tried unsuccessfully to break into the safe, he said.
Since the rash of burglaries began, the police department has put more people on burglary detail, sometimes even hiding inside restaurants at night.
“We started the stakeouts pretty early on and definitely saw a pattern that they’re hitting mostly restaurants, usually hitting two a night,” he said.
Lillard said police suspect many of the burglaries are being committed by the same perpetrators.
“We’re believing that some of these are tied together,” he said.