The incidence of property crimes in Wilton increased drastically in 2013, bucking a 10-year trend of declining rates in town. The number of burglaries in Wilton shot from 17 in 2012 to 58 in 2013, the largest jump seen in the 18 years the FBI has digitally tracked local crime data.
Likewise, larcenies increased by 39 in 2013, second only to a 40-incident jump between 1998 and 1999.
Such increases may partly be the result of random chance, or a group of serial burglars in town, Wilton police Lt. Don Wakeman said Tuesday, but he believes one of the “driving forces” behind the uptick is a growing regional narcotics problem.
“Right now there is so much heroin use that it is just the overriding factor in people turning to theft and burglary,” Lt. Wakeman said. “There have always been certain elements of career burglars who feel that is all they know how to do, and we still see some of that, but now, by far most people need cash to feed their habit.”
Narcotics addiction has become a widespread phenomenon in much of New England, as was brought to the public’s attention most sharply by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s 2013 State of the State address. In that address, dedicated entirely to heroin, he called his state’s problem a “full-blown heroin crisis.”
In Connecticut, narcotics addiction is also increasing.
State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125), who represents Wilton, is a supporter of House Bill No. 5487, which would provide legal immunity to anyone who administers a drug called an “opioid antagonist” to a person experiencing an overdose.
His office said this week “according to the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, deaths from heroin abuse alone rose by nearly 50% to 257 in 2013, from 174 such deaths in 2012.”
Though he discouraged looking too closely at a single year’s statistical increase in a small town, Lt. Wakeman also said “increased drug use is quite possibly the main factor” for the rise in property crimes in Wilton.
One such case involved the boyfriend and girlfriend pair of Frank Keller, 41, of Milford, and Kristin McCann, 40, of Milford.
On Aug. 9, 2013 the pair was caught “actively committing a burglary” on Drum Hill Road. When arrested, both were found to be in possession of narcotics, and narcotics paraphernalia.
“They need the drug, and they need the money to buy the drug, so they break into a home, steal what they can, sell what they can, and feed the habit,” Lt. Wakeman said.
In recent weeks, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have come together to call for what The Hartford Courant calls “coordinated action at the local, state and federal level.”
“We can’t wait any longer,” said Mr. Murphy. “We’re not doing enough to change the way we address this crisis.”
Wilton police were also relatively undermanned last year, Lt. Wakeman said, making their normal program of aggressive motor vehicle enforcement very difficult. This aggressive enforcement was a large factor in keeping serial thieves out of Wilton.
“Believe it or not, I have heard from arrested burglars over the last few decades that they avoid coming into Wilton because we are aggressive in our motor vehicle enforcement,” he said.
“Our patrol is historically very aggressive, but for quite a while we have not been at our full staff. The number of vehicles per shift affects the amount of enforcement you can do.”
At full staff, Lt. Wakeman said, the department has one or two vehicles whose entire shift is dedicated to traffic duty. Maintaining an aggressive traffic enforcement unit is important, he said, because potential thieves know their chances of being stopped for reasons unrelated to stolen goods are relatively high.
One of the best ways to prevent burglaries and larcenies from continuing to increase, Lt. Wakeman said, is to increase the public’s awareness of the problem.
“Getting information out through the media is very important,” he said. “The more we publicize it, it helps with awareness involving incidents in town.”
He hopes the more information residents have, the better they will be able to help police curb the problem.
“Hopefully they can help us if they are a little more aware,” he said. “If there are any suspicious people, or vehicles, they can always call that in.”