Oakland County sees rash of similar home invasions, police say

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 16, 2013

OAKLAND COUNTY — Officers at the Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Department have been busy investigating a home invasion that took place last week in the village.

And they’re not the only ones.

Several police agencies around Oakland County have been reporting an inordinate number of home invasions, many of which seem to have striking similarities. According to a statement released by Franklin-Bingham Farms police, several departments have been taking complaints from residents whose homes were entered, usually through a rear window or door.

On Jan. 9, police responded to a home invasion in Franklin, where suspects appear to have entered the house by breaking a ground-level window and then making off with some household electronics. Later, neighbors reported seeing unfamiliar vehicles parked around the house, along with some men in their late-teens to early-20s dressed in casual business attire.

According to a statement from the department, it’s now thought that the men were posing as solicitors in the area in an attempt to see which houses were vacant in the neighborhood.

“This is just the first one we’ve had this year, and we didn’t have any in December. But we have seen a pattern in these daytime home invasions, and that is concerning to these police departments around here,” said Chief Daniel Roberts of the Franklin-Bingham Police Department.

Also on Jan. 9, in Bloomfield Township, police were notified of a startling four home invasions that happened within a matter of hours.

Similar incidents have been reported in Royal Oak, Farmington Hills and other areas around the county, though not all of the cases involve fake solicitors during daytime hours. Some home invasions have been happening during the night while the residents are away, or even sleeping just a few feet away.

Detective Lt. Corey Haines of the Madison Heights Police Department said that, while the method of the break-ins is nothing new, the number of incidents being reported is certainly out of the ordinary.

“At least in the past several months, we haven’t really had any incidents,” he said. “I would hope it doesn’t continue, but we definitely have officers out there looking for this activity. We are currently doing everything in our power to try and prevent them from happening again.”

Haines noted two cases in particular that happened on Jan. 8 and 9 in Madison Heights, where suspects in both cases entered homes through the rear of the house, retrieved the keys to the homeowner’s vehicle and stole the car from the driveway.

Madison Heights resident Lauren Gadoua was one of the victims. It was during the overnight hours of Jan. 8-9 that someone broke into her house and made off with her purse, her boyfriend’s wallet, a laptop, a cellphone and even her 2012 Dodge Challenger.

“They got in through the kitchen window in the back of the house. It was actually unlocked, though obviously I didn’t really know that it was. They popped the screen out and opened the window and came in through the window.”

Haines said a similar incident was reported to the department the day prior, in which the homeowner had a Chrysler 300 stolen after thieves broke into the house during the night and retrieved the keys,

“It’s alarming to us because people are committing a 20-year felony — breaking into the home, basically to steal the car.”

In the days that followed the break-in, Gadoua said, she watched her bank account as the thieves tallied up charges, including a payment made to Metro PCS wireless company, charges at gas stations and three purchases made at the same McDonald’s location in Detroit. She changed her locks because the suspects had taken her keys, and she waited patiently to hear from police, in hopes that her car would be recovered. As of now, the vehicle is still missing.

“I mean, I know the chances of them coming back are extremely low, but when something like this happens to you, it instills this general distrust of people, and that’s not how I want to live,” said Gadoua.

Whether the incidents around Oakland County are linked, or whether the rise in home invasions is just coincidental, only time will tell, Haines said. But until then, he warned that residents need to do what they can to protect themselves.

“Be as careful as possible. Make sure all windows in the house are locked and secured at night,” he said. “Put keys in a strategic location so you know where they’re at but they’re not necessarily in plain view.”

He added that, while none of the incidents he’s heard of locally have resulted in altercations or violence, it should never be ruled out as a possibility.

“Any time you’re dealing with the criminal element, it could come to that. Just the fact that they know they’ve broken into a home, there’s got to be some serious implications there for them, and they’ve got to be aware of that,” he warned. “If someone hears someone they believe to be entering their home, I recommend they not try to confront. Get to a phone and call 911 and notify us.”