SCARBOROUGH – Scarborough’s “seasonal” burglary spree continues unabated, with three homes and a business hit last week – bringing the number of break-ins since Oct. 1 to 24. However, for the first time, police have a suspect in their sights.

On Thursday, a person living near the end of Holmes Road reported an “odd” visitor at his door, acting “very nervous,” according to a police report, and “asking for John.” When the homeowner advised there was nobody in residence by that name, the person left. That might have been the end of the story, but, struck by the strange demeanor of the visitor, the homeowner placed a call to police about 45 minutes after the visit.

As it turns out, another home on Holmes Road, about a half-mile away, was robbed at about the same time as the visit and police suspect a connection. Unfortunately, suspicion is all they have to go on at this time.

“When somebody has a encounter like that, they really need to call us right away,” said Scarborough Detective Rick Rouse, on Monday. “Unfortunately, 45 minutes later, there’s not a lot we can do.”

According to Rouse, most of the recent burglaries have involved single-residence homes, and the vast majority have been bold, daylight break-ins.

“They [burglars] hit the businesses at night and the homes during the day,” explained Rouse. “In both cases, they’re looking for times when nobody’s there.”

Rouse said a “common tactic” is to visit a house not easily seen from the roadway and simply knock on the door. If nobody answers, the target is acquired. If somebody does come to the door, the visitor will quickly invent a reason for approaching a home where, Rouse said, “they really have no business being.” Often, the visitor will act lost and ask for directions. Other times, as in the case of the Holmes Road encounter, the stranger will ask for a person by name, although Rouse said the request is usually something less likely to result in an affirmative answer than “John.”

“Once upon a time, it might not have been unusual for that kind of thing to happen – for somebody to walk up to a stranger’s door and ask for directions – but nowadays, that’s odd behavior,” said Rouse.

Although Rouse stressed there is no way to know if this Friend-of-John robbed the nearby Holmes Road house, or even any house at all, police do want to question him.

The man, believed to be in his 30s, is said to be about 6 feet tall, with short, dark hair, a “scruffy” beard and “crooked teeth.” He drove off in a “newer, charcoal-gray” Ford Fusion.

The Holmes Road house that was broken into had its door forced open sometime before 3 p.m. on Dec. 15. The only thing reported missing was a Dell Inspiron computer valued at $700.

In other thefts from the past week, Beauregard Equipment Inc. reported on Monday, Dec. 12, that a New Holland tractor with snowblower attachment – valued at $16,532 – was taken from its Gibson Road location sometime during the previous weekend. Rouse said the tractor was found in Lyman Dec. 16, although by then the snowblower had been removed.

Then, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, another Holmes Road house was hit, sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Rouse said the thieves entered through an unlocked basement door and made off with “numerous items jewelry and assorted antique coins,” having a total estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000. Two chainsaws also where thought to be missing, although Rouse said the homeowners were uncertain if they had been stolen, or merely borrowed by their son.

Finally, on Friday, Dec. 16, a Two Rod Road resident reported items missing from his garage, including a Stihl leaf blower, a Husqvarna chainsaw and a Heard leaf blower. However, Rouse said that by the time of the complaint, the items had already been recovered by Old Orchard Beach police, who found them after serving a search warrant on a resident of that town. That person’s name had not been released as of Dec. 19 because charges were yet to be filed, said Rouse, adding that the best Scarborough police can hope for is a charge of “possessing stolen equipment.”

“They’ll probably never be able to prove that this person actually took those items,” he said.

It’s also unlikely that person can be connected to any of the other recent burglaries in Scarborough. In fact, it’s likely he has nothing to so with any others, said Rouse.

“Even when some of these burglaries span out over the same time period, it’s not the same people,” he said. “The location of the houses that have been robbed has been pretty random.”

Scarborough police report a spike in burglaries to both homes and vehicles around this time each year. Although 2011 numbers are “slightly above” those of the recent past, Rouse said he doubts the unseasonably warm weather has been a contributing factor.

“Usually,” he said, “it’s people trying to get money for drugs.”

That said, Rouse hopes this week’s cold snap will also snap the burglary streak.

“It seems like that’s all we’ve been dealing with and it doesn’t seem like were getting anywhere as far as suspects,” he said.

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