Police have arrested one of the men they believe burglarized Northside homes in the middle of the night while the occupants were asleep.
Joshua A. Wise Jr., 22, of Avenue B, is accused of burglarizing eight different homes and attempting to buglarize two more homes. He now faces eight counts of felony burglary and two counts of attempted burglary.
There are still 10 unsolved burglaries in the Northside neighborhood, and police said they are still searching for other burglars. They don’t believe that Wise committed all of the burglaries, even though they all seemed to be similar.
In each case, burglars entered through unlocked windows or an unlocked back door. They grabbed small electronics, particularly iPhones, and slipped away without ever being confronted by the homeowners.
Police issued an appeal last week for people to lock their doors and windows at night. They feared homeowners might get into a deadly confrontation with burglars, particularly after one daring burglar snuck into a bedroom, crept past a sleeping resident and snatched the Blackberry charging on a bedside table.
For weeks, police fanned out across the neighborhood in plain clothes late at night to find the burglars. Patrols were increased, every detective was assigned to the case and bits of DNA and fingerprints from every burglary were sent to the state police lab, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said.
Finally, last Thursday, the state lab identified some of the fingerprints as belonging to Wise. But he wasn’t on probation or parole and police had no idea where he lived.
So they kept watching for burglars.
On Monday at 6:10 a.m., a resident called police to report a man “acting suspiciously” on Avenue B.
The plainclothes officers responded at once and confronted the man, who told them he was Joshua Wise. Then he ran, but the officers called a uniformed patrol car and within three blocks he was caught, Bennett said.
“Remarkably, he consented to a very lengthy interview,” he added.
He confessed to eight burglaries and two attempted burglaries, describing how he got into each house and what he stole, Bennett said.
In one case, he climbed in a window and heard the clicking of a motion detector, part of a burglary alarm. He fled before the alarm went off, Bennett said.
In another case, he tried to get through a window but couldn’t open it high enough because the homeowner had placed blocks in the window frame. So he tried the back door — which was unlocked, Bennett said.
Bennett called Wise a “savvy character” who knew to walk through backyards rather than along the streets so that police wouldn’t see him.
He told police he was never armed, and confessed to stealing the Blackberry from the owner’s bedroom on Seward Place, Bennett said.
“Scary stuff. Occupied homes. People sleeping at night,” Bennett said. “The tension in the Northside was quite severe, and rightfully so.”
He thanked residents for reporting suspicious people they saw in the neighborhood.
“That allowed us to finally locate him,” he said.
Now police are trying to solve the other burglaries. They are awaiting possible identifications from other evidence being processed at the state lab, and investigating several suspects.
But he said police are convinced Wise isn’t to blame for the other cases.
“This kid just wasn’t holding back,” he said.
Wise also told police he stole for the money. He said he was not addicted to drugs, except for marijuana.
“Money. It was money,” Bennett said.
Police have tried to track the stolen goods, searching Craigslist and second-hand dealers shops. They didn’t find anything when they searched Wise’s apartment.
They did find an iPhone and an iPad through Craigslist and arrested two people for possession of stolen property. Neither of them bought the items directly from Wise.
“The iPhone changed hands several times,” Bennett said. “It’s remarkable how quickly after it was stolen it was on Craigslist. Twenty-four hours. That’s why they’re so hard to recover.”
Police arrested Shani P. Payton, 36, on charges of selling a stolen iPhone to a second-hand dealer in the city. The dealer showed police a website where he had looked up the serial number to check whether it was stolen. The site said the phone was not stolen, although Verizon had reported it stolen. The site was either not up to date or a fraud, Bennett said.
The dealer was able to show police a video of the seller, leading them to Payton. The dealer was not charged.
But another second-hand dealer, Hussain Hussain, 22, was charged with possession of a stolen iPad. He runs Sains Discount on Van Vranken Avenue and did not properly check whether the item was stolen, Bennett said.
“He has a responsibility — all of the second-hand dealers have a responsibility to look into these things,” Bennett said. “We’re only a phone call away.”