Guam is in the midst of one of the worst crime waves on record and officials are clamoring to identify the burglars and vandals who in the last month broke into hundreds of cars and burglarized nearly 100 homes and offices.

From June 5 to July 1 eighty burglary complaints on criminals breaking into homes and offices have been filed with the Guam Police Department. However more alarming said Sgt. Arthur W.J. Paulino Guam CrimeStoppers coordinator is that 159 criminal mischief and theft of property complaints have been filed for damage to automobiles.

“What these individuals are doing is breaking into vehicles and stealing anything they can pick up easily like wallets purses packages license plates and stereos ” Paulino told the Journal. “What has law enforcement officers most concerned is that these thefts are happening in broad daylight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at places like the Micronesia Mall and Guam Premier Outlets.”

Normally thefts occur in the late evening or early morning hours in residential areas or business establishments. “What is happening in the last month are theft crimes and vandalism occurring in well- populated places ” Paulino said. “The police are used to seeing a break-in to a vehicle at a club or a residence in the early morning hours but now they are happening at the malls during heavy traffic times in broad daylight.”

Paulino said the police are seeing multiple break-ins at the Micronesia Mall and the Guam Premier Outlets on a regular basis. “The perpetrators of these openly blatant crimes are operating with a total disregard for mall security personnel and we believe are watching and shopping for vehicles to hit.”

At the Sunrise Apartments which is directly across from the Micronesia Mall on June 25 at 5 p.m. to the 26th at 1 p.m. 20 autos were broken into and an estimated $7 500 damage was done. That same day two people reported to officials a vehicle parked at Harmon Beef Bowl as well as two more at the Upper Tumon Burger King location were broken into and car stereos as well as personal belonging were stolen. In all 159 cases cars were maliciously damaged or broken into and valuables were stolen.

“Most of the vehicles were scratched with a blunt object which the owner is going to have to repaint others involved a ramming tool to the lock and others where the owners left the vehicle unlocked. But the times were within five to 10 minutes of each other ” Paulino said. “It’s like they hit an area fast and then leave their mark.”

Another new “modus operandi” that GPD officers want to let the public to be aware of is
what has been termed the “gas station grab.” In these cases which are also on the rise the operator of a vehicle parks with the engine running at a convenience store and culprits either hop in and steal the vehicle outright or quickly rumble through the interior contents and steal anything of value.

“On June 14 a woman was at the Ocean Vista 76 station when she went in to buy a soda she had parked to the side of the building and when she returned a few minutes later her wallet and several thousand dollars worth of jewelry had been taken Paulino said. “In other words there is an individual or group of people that are watching areas and are ready to steal or damage at a moment’s notice they are waiting and watching and then pouncing on their next victim.”

Paulino said that investigators believe they have a lead on at least one person who is committing these crimes. On June 25 a brown Nissan Sentra that had been reported by security personnel at Guam Premier Outlets and the Micronesia Mall was found with two different license plates parked off Kalamasa Drive in Mogfog Dededo. “Upon further investigation officers from the Dededo Precinct located the suspect vehicle and found it had been stolen on May 25 from the parking lot of the Onward Agana Beach Hotel. Upon further investigation several stolen car stereos a black wallet with identification of a person that had reported it stolen an hour earlier from an unlocked car at the Guam Telephone Authority Upper Tumon office were uncovered ” Paulino said. “This lead to the arrest of Yolanda L. Megofna a 26-year-old female who we believe has been operating with another man but she is not talking so we’re still on the lookout for this person.

Paulino said another prized item for thieves is license plates. “When they steal someone’s car these thieves want a license plate that is from a car that is similar in appearance so that when a police officer calls in a suspect car it appears to match the model under suspicion.”

Robberies are well above the norm for June also. There were seven grand theft robberies in June. “One of the most serious was a clerk at the Gogue’s store in Ordot who was struck with the muzzle of a gun and then robbed of the cash in the register.

On June 17 the Cop Shop in Maite was broken into and many materials that law enforcement officials use in the line of duty were stolen in the early morning. Paulino said that 10 Stinger rechargeable flashlights were stolen as well as five handheld metal detectors and 58 pieces of pepper spray which has the police worried.

“The pepper spray has us particularly worried as a criminal could walk up to a tourist or a mom and pop store and spray them with it and they would be debilitated for a few minutes. A “taser” gun is also missing which can deliver a shock of up to 50 000 volts and leaves a victim quivering on the ground for 10 to 15 minutes ” Paulino said. “There also are about a dozen spring loaded batons that were taken which if used can thumb somebody with a lot of force so all these things are out on the street.

The police department is working to get the word out that people should not be complacent and that criminals are actively going after targets in broad daylight.

Paulino said normally a sudden crime wave could be attributed to either drug users needing money or to organized crime or gangs that steal vehicles to be stripped for parts usually sold to repair shops. Officials are hard-pressed to peg this on any one group.

“We can’t say for sure until we can arrest some of these people and interrogate them. We must assume that this sudden increase in crime is an across- the-board spree. Some cases can be attributed to youth out of school with nothing to do but act maliciously and to the [drug] users needing money. We haven’t had an increase in car thefts but burglaries are up and that in itself is a bad thing also ” Paulino said.

These criminals are being blatant in their acts and the public should not be complacent in the idea that vehicles are safe zones for their valuables because they are not ” Paulino concluded. MBJ