Wide-ranging burglary spree hits Beaumont hard

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Related content: Police, community partner to combat burglary spree

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“I wouldn’t call it an epidemic, but it’s close,” Beaumont Police Department Chief Jimmy Singletary said.

Home, business and auto burglaries are occurring in the city at an alarming rate, with Beaumont boasting a 35 percent increase in those crimes so far year to date, according to the department’s Uniform Crime Report – so fast, in fact, it’s become difficult to keep up, Singletary said.

Beaumont already had its share of “routine” burglary reports prior to this recent wave – almost 100 a month. However, in the department’s March Uniform Crime Report, the numbers soared.

“Across the board burglary was at 272 (at this point) last year,” Sgt. Mike Custer of BPD said. “This year, it’s at 366.” According to Custer, last month the reported number nearly doubled from the same month last year – from 95 in February 2015 to 165 in February 2016.

“There is definitely an uptick,” Custer said. “There’s an increase for sure.”

For investigators like Custer, it isn’t just the fact that more burglaries are occurring that is so unusual. It’s that the “uptick” is associated with a particular MO (modus operandi, or particular method) that has officers believing many of the burglaries have been perpetrated by a group of actors in some sort of collusion, some from out of the area and others homegrown.

In many of the recent Beaumont burglaries, perpetrators are following a pattern – more than one (usually stolen) vehicle is used with more than one person in one of the vehicles, targeting similar victims, stealing similar items.

“We just have to filter through hundreds of different things to see what it is,” Custer explained of what BPD is doing to profile the criminals targeting homes and businesses in the city. According to stats at BPD, since August of last year, the city has had 27 “smash-and-grabs” with stolen vehicles from outside the city used to burglarize Beaumont homes and businesses, stealing safes and mostly untraceable valuables.

“It’s all over the city,” Singletary said. More accurately, he said. “These smash-and-grabs are all over Texas – and Louisiana.

“It’s a sophisticated group. They’re doing it en masse. They obviously are very professional. They’re very detailed, and they’re organized.”

Custer said the group or groups performing the smash-and-grabs and home burglaries stands out against the regular burglary MO.

“Kids steal fun things like paintball guns, X-box systems, TVs, things like that,” Custer explained. But not the criminals wreaking havoc in Beaumont. “They’re stealing untraceable cash, jewelry, gold, usually nothing that has a serial number on it.

“We have to look at what they take, how they take it. The number of burglaries is one thing, the style is another.”

Custer added that geography is just “one small component” of what officers are tracking – basically, he said, they must “apply business models to criminal enterprises.”

The weekend of April 9, Beaumont Police burglary detectives reported a rash of smash-and-grabs believed to be related to other similar crimes.

Sunday, April 10, suspects used force to gain entry to three different vehicle dealership locations. Classic, Kinsel and Mike Smith dealerships reported burglaries and had damage to almost all of their showrooms and offices.

Monday, April 11, officers responded to an alarm at Citi Trends, a clothing shop at 3290 Avenue A where a vehicle was used to crash through the front doors to gain entry. The manager said the safe was stolen during the burglary, representing tens of thousands of dollars in loss.

According to officer Carol Riley, “Investigators have information that these burglaries are possibly connected to numerous burglaries throughout Houston and Southeast Texas. An organized group of suspected gang members are using vehicles to crash through the front doors of businesses. Once inside, the suspects are taking anything from cigarettes to ATMs and safes.”

Houston-area police departments report that many cases similar to those in Beaumont have resulted in arrests of gang members from multiple sects of Piru, the Crips, the Versatiles and others. Harris County, Houston PD and Montgomery County all have similar cases with similar MOs, as does Orange County, Pinehurst and other local police departments.

According to records at BPD, many of the suspects captured in the Beaumont crimes have Houston ties.

March 23, officers attempted to stop a driver for a traffic violation in an area where several home burglaries have been noted. The driver sped off, later stopping the vehicle, only to speed off again after the officer made contact. After an approximate 11-minute chase, the driver of the vehicle “crashed out” into a metal gate of the Salt Water Barrier in the extreme north end of Beaumont. The driver, later identified as 30-year-old Joshua Lamont Roberts, didn’t stop there, however, and officers had to pursue on foot to capture the suspect. Eventually, Roberts was arrested and booked for evading detention with a motor vehicle and evading arrest. Roberts was taken into the custody of the Jefferson County Jail but was later released to Harris County on warrants that mirror the charges he now faces in Jefferson County – all the way up to pulling over for the officer, only to speed off again once contact is made.

Making contact with the smash-and-grab suspects has also included some harrowing moments, as one officer was shot at while giving chase on one suspect who fit the profile of those committing the organized burglaries.

March 18, 17-year-old Harris County resident Kadaryan Colbert was spotted in the early morning hours (about 3 a.m., just like in the Citi Trends burglary and others) driving a stolen van. With Colbert, officers also noted what was called a “chase car,” an accomplice driving a Mustang running interference during the traffic stop.

Colbert evaded police in his vehicle until he got to some railroad tracks, left the vehicle running and jumped out of the moving auto.

“While evading on foot, Colbert had a firearm in his right hand,” according to a police report of the incident. “At one point, Colbert turned over his right shoulder and extended his right arm, firing off one shot toward the officer. Colbert continued to run south. Assisting officers arrived and set up a perimeter.”

Colbert was found and arrested, later booked on charges including aggravated assault of a police officer, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and evading detention with a motor vehicle. He is currently being held in the Jefferson County Jail on a $400,000 bond.

“This is consistent with the MO used in several of our burglaries,” Riley reported, only to add that it is impossible to prove his intent. “Stolen vehicle – often used to smash into businesses and transport an ATM or safe. Other vehicles with suspects that are working with them. We cannot confirm the intent, just that it matches the MO of our burglars out of the Houston area.”

The fact that these suspects are willing to shoot at police proves just how dangerous this group is, Singletary said.

“It’s scary,” he said, adding that officer safety is tantamount in any police department. Still, Singletary said, his officers are up to the challenge and not letting the threat of armed and dangerous gunmen deter their progress in capturing the criminals responsible for the rash of crimes plaguing the city.

“We just make our officers aware that these criminals are very likely to open fire at our officers,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in an ambush like that. A lot of these groups have guards. If they’re violent enough, they’ll shoot at the police officer.

“That’s part of the job. Some of these more sophisticated crews target officers.

“We have not heard anything about them hurting citizens. But that’s because no citizens have gotten in the way – yet.”

Because of these criminals’ predilection to fire at will, Singletary said it is unwise of citizens to try to intervene if they spot a suspect they believe to be part of the burglary ring or rings targeting Beaumont.

“If you call in a felony in progress – that’s a priority one call. We will pull officers off of other things to come,” Singletary said of police response, again urging citizens not to act other than calling the police. “We will get there ASAP – detective, narcotics, administration – we’ll drop what we’re doing and get there as quick as possible.

“We need nosy citizens, now more than ever.”

What is not needed, however, is citizens becoming victims.

“We’re just proud of citizens getting involved — as long as they don’t get themselves in harm’s way,” Singletary said.

Custer said the name of the game is “exploitation” – these criminals are doing it to our community, and ultimately, police will use it against them as well.

“They’re trying to exploit the area — the citizens, the businesses,” he said. “We’re trying to exploit their weaknesses.

“We will catch them. If it was done by a human, it can be solved by a human.”

Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham said, when captured, his office plans to prosecute burglary suspects to the fullest extent possible.

“We have made a decision… to put these people behind bars for this,” Wortham said. “Nobody gets probation. Only a judge or a jury can give probation. We will not make any plea deal offers for probation.”

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