A home burglary in the Russell neighborhood has put residents on the alert. STAFF/2018

A home burglary in the Wilkes neighborhood has put residents on the alert.

On Saturday, May 19, sometime shortly after 4 p.m., a house near the corner of 146th Dr. and Knott Ct. in the Wilkes neighborhood was broken into and burglarized. The house was ransacked so badly, the owners still scarcely knew what was stolen three days later, and what wasn’t simply destroyed was strewn somewhere, still yet to be found.

A neighbor and friend of the burglary victims spoke to the Mid-county Memo on condition of anonymity, not wanting to attract the negative attention of the burglars. “They had gone out and left their patio door open to let the dog out. The police say this is the worst ransacked house they’ve ever seen. And I was over there after two days of them trying to clean it up,” said the neighbor, “and it’s just a mess. It’s awful.”

The home had a video security system set up on the house that captured what is believed to be one of the burglars casing the house soon after the homeowners left. In the video, which has been viewed by the Mid-county Memo, a tan Caucasian woman who appears to be in her late twenties or early thirties walks up to the front door and knocks for nearly a minute, looking in the windows while the dog inside barks. Eventually she can be seen walking around the house and disappearing. It is then believed she entered the open patio and, possibly with accomplices, proceeded to stay for an extended period, causing property damage and stealing from the home. “We have noticed the burglar woman who showed up on the neighbors’ camera fits the same description as that given by two people at Summerplace who also were robbed,” says the unidentified neighbor. They have spoken to neighbors from the Summerplace area, just east of 148th Avenue. “Forensics came and took fingerprints. The police were supposed to come by on Sunday (May 20) to download the video from the homeowner’s camera, but they didn’t come,” said the neighbor.

While describing the situation on the neighborhood social networking website Nextdoor, another neighbor in the Russell-Wilkes area, who also spoke to the Memo on condition of anonymity, described a potentially more distressing scenario that may now await the theft victims.

Neighbors said when issues like this have been brought up at neighborhood association meetings for the Wilkes Community Group, or WCG, nothing useful has been done. “We just found it easier to do this ourselves.” She said in the past they had an issue with a drug house on their block and the “help” they got from the community association was more harm than help. “For us it didn’t work with the drug house, so with this burglary we didn’t report it to them.”

WCG Chair Richard Mohle, did not respond to the Memo’s repeated requests for comment.

According to this neighbor, their home was burglarized in similar fashion in September 2017. Upon investigation by police, a fingerprint was discovered on the window, which the neighbor alleges they said they would likely not have the time to have forensics run the print. At the homeowner’s prodding, a forensics technician was sent to collect the evidence, though it was still unclear whether it would ever get analyzed. A seeming stroke of luck found the print tested, and a match almost instantly discovered. But this is only where the story becomes more concerning for the theft victim; Portland Police said they wouldn’t be able to allocate the necessary human resources to apprehend the suspected perpetrator. They were simply stretched too thin to be able to go out and find the thief, despite having their identity. At the very same time as this was unfolding, the homeowner’s stolen items also started showing up for sale on the website OfferUp. “The officer I spoke to actually suggested I arrange to meet up with the thief to buy back my stuff and then hold them until police could arrive,” says the theft victim, “which seems crazy, right?”

Upon speaking with a different detective later, the homeowner’s suspicion was confirmed, as the detective advised them that the previous officer’s advice was indeed incorrect and not what is recommended for theft victims. The detective did confirm, however, that the suspect would not be actively sought. Instead they would simply have to wait for him to be picked up elsewhere on a different charge, and then they could also charge them with this break-in.

But in a twist that further perplexed the theft victim and shook their confidence, they recently discovered, months after the incident, that the suspect had been picked up in Yamhill County on an unrelated charge. When they called the detective assigned to the case to see if the charge would be levied, the detective claimed no knowledge of the arrest, and even called back after checking on it, so say there was no record of such an arrest. The homeowner then forwarded a public record of the arrest they had downloaded online. That was just this past week, with no word yet on whether the suspect is being charged.

Sergeant Chris Burley, Public Information Officer for the Portland Police Bureau, responded to questions about the official policy on property crimes. Is it true at this point that even with a successful ID, Portland Police won’t go after property crime perpetrators? “The Police Bureau recognizes the sanctity of a person’s residence and investigates reports of burglary and trespass in the first degree with the resources available to the Bureau,” said Burley.

“Often times it may difficult to locate a suspect, especially if the person knows they are wanted for a crime. The Police Bureau does not encourage members of the community to attempt to apprehend suspects of crimes; instead contact 9-1-1 if you observe a crime or locate the suspect of a crime. The Police Bureau will utilize tips from community members and informants to locate wanted individuals,” said Burley.

Meanwhile, the newest theft in Wilkes from May 19 continues to roil the community. The victim’s neighbors also advised the victim to contact police with the further witness statements of people who live in the area. They shared their witness accounts and are attempting to give police whatever help they need. “She got out of and then back into an orange Dodge Charger,” said another neighbor on Nextdoor, who witnessed the suspect around the time of the break-in. “One person was left hanging around by the bike path, so my husband called the non-emergency number and the police did come out and question him for a few minutes, then drove off.”

The unidentified neighbor of the theft victims added, “You have to know that we’ve spent a year and a half trying to get a drug house off our block, so we’re pretty tight in keeping in touch with each other.”

“The City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement provides multiple tips on how to better safeguard a home against burglary, these tips include landscaping, lighting and communication with your neighbors. If a community member sees someone suspicious in their neighborhood, please contact 503-823-3333, and if the suspicious person involves a crime in progress, dial 9-1-1,” said Burley.

It remains to be seen whether the most recent home invasion victims will ever get piece of mind or any of their belongings back.

“They totally upended their house. You couldn’t even walk in,” said the neighbor. “They’re still struggling to see what’s missing.”

The Mid-county Memo will follow up on this story with further developments as they unfold.