Dover Police Detective Rich Werner says the thefts occurred over the last six weeks. “At the end of January we had a couple of snowboards taken off cars at night,” Werner says. “At the same time, things were taken out of a snowmobile trailer in Wilmington.”
Suspecting that the thefts were related, the two departments worked together. Werner says Wilmington Detective Mark Denault began monitoring Craigslist and eBay for listings matching the description of the stolen items. Werner says none of the items turned up online. “We saw similar things, but they were located in different places – which didn’t make sense.”
As the number of thefts mounted, however, a pattern emerged. Most of the thefts occurred on weekends, at night, and items were taken from cars parked at lodges, condominium units, and houses. Sometimes the thief took as many as five or six snowboards or other items from one spot.
With an idea of the kind of conditions favored by the perpetrator, police hatched a plan to place several cars with snowboards mounted on roof racks at strategic locations around Dover. Dover police officers concealed themselves within view of the “bait,” and waited for the would-be thief to make his rounds.
On the first weekend, February 26 and 27, there was no suspicious activity around the bait cars, and police were left scratching their heads. Had they been spotted? Had the thief moved on? But police did see a car pull into a condominium complex and leave again, and they took down the license plate number.
Later, police learned that a security/property management employee at one of the condominium complexes had noticed the thief cruising the parking lot and stopped to “give him the hairy eyeball,” Werner says. Apparently, it was enough to make the perpetrator think better of pursuing his activities for the rest of the weekend.
Last weekend, police set up their sting again. Dover police officers watched several bait cars around the area, and Wilmington officers covered calls in both towns.
On the first night, Dover patrolman Mike Arbogast saw a car pull into the condominium complex where he was located, pull up to the bait snowboards, and leave the parking lot with snowboards in the car – the same car that police had seen a week earlier. The suspect was stopped and, according to Dover Police Sergeant Randy Johnson, his extreme emotional state gave away his guilt right away.
Back at the police station, Werner interviewed the suspect and obtained not only a confession to the larcenies police already knew about, but to several more as well. Werner also gained the suspect’s cooperation. He agreed to help police recover all of the stolen goods. “I think he genuinely wanted to do the right thing,” Werner said. “He could have said nothing. He’s still helping us.”
Dover police have asked The Deerfield Valley News not to release the suspect’s name because of their ongoing investigation, but police say he lives in Springfield, MA, and has family ties to the southern Vermont area.
On Sunday, following the interview, Werner, Johnson, and the suspect drove to the suspect’s home in Springfield in two trucks to recover the stolen items. Curiously, the perpetrator didn’t sell any of the stolen items, and didn’t intend to sell them, Werner says. “We don’t know why he was taking them.”
As he promised, the perpetrator not only led police to his stash of snowboards and other items, he helped load them into their trucks. Since then, he has helped identify when and where they were taken so that they can be returned to owners. Police have returned a number of the items to their owners already, and have contacted a number of other victims. Werner says there are still six snowboards that they can’t connect to any reported theft. Police are hoping that anyone who may have had a snowboard stolen in Dover or Wilmington over the last six weeks will contact them to make a report. None of the snowboards or other equipment were stolen from Mount Snow.
Police estimate the value of the recovered items at about $25,000.