In recent weeks, Barnstable police have been responding to an increase in residential and motor vehicle break-ins during the daytime.
Police say the trend has been especially prevalent in the western villages of the town, including Marstons Mills, Centerville, Cotuit and West Barnstable.
These thefts have been occurring between 6 AM and 6 PM, hours when many year-round residents are out of the home and off at work.
Burglars have been targeting jewelry, laptop computers and flat-screen televisions, according to Barnstable Detective Lieutenant John F. Murphy Jr.
Thieves also have been rifling medicine cabinets in a search for pills that will feed their addiction, according to Lt. Murphy.
That is a relatively new development in local burglaries, he said.
Both Lt. Murphy and Barnstable Police Sergeant Sean Sweeney say that the burglaries are mostly driven by the desire for illegal narcotics.
By selling the stolen goods, the burglars can get the money they need to buy drugs.
The recent increase in break-ins follows a year in which burglaries in the town decreased by 15 percent to a total of 361 burglaries in 2011, according to Barnstable Police Patrolman Eric Drifmeyer, who tracks crime trends for the police department.
That statistic includes burglaries of businesses as well as homes and vehicles, Officer Drifmeyer said.
Lt. Murphy said the Barnstable police recently have been seeing a rash of forced entry into houses.
Sandwich and Mashpee also have been experiencing a number of forced-entry break-ins, he said.
In contrast, he said, motor vehicles targeted by thieves usually are unlocked.
The detective lieutenant said the jewelry stolen from homes is not showing up at pawn stores in Barnstable, which face stringent reporting requirements with the police.
He said Barnstable’s experience reinforces the need for a stringent statewide reporting system at pawn shops.
Officer Drifmeyer said the thieves may be taking the jewelry to off-Cape towns that have less stringent reporting requirements.
The patrolman said he has seen a number of cases where the burglars head straight to the bedrooms in a search for jewelry, ignoring other things to steal.
“They grab it [the jewelry] and run right out the door,” he said.
Lt. Murphy said most, if not all, of the housebreaks that the department has been seeing are occurring in the daytime.
People will tend to notice a car or bicyclists that seem out of place late at night, he said.
But the same car or bicyclists moving through the neighborhood in the afternoon can draw less suspicion, he said.
Sgt. Sweeney told of one resident who heard her rear slider move shortly after dawn.
She took hold of a handy baseball bat and, upon investigation, found a man with a red beard and red hair inside her house.
She yelled and he ran.The sergeant also said young women have been participating in a number of housebreaks in town.
The women will knock on their door, the sergeant said.
If a resident answers the door, the woman will make up a story why she is there.
If no one answers, the housebreak will move ahead.
Sgt. Sweeney urged residents to call police if it feels like someone should not be at the door or in the neighborhood.
“Give us a call,” he said.
The police would rather respond and find nothing than allow burglars to continue to ply their trade, he said.
For tips from police on how to prevent burglaries, see today's issue of The Barnstable Enterprise