The crimes had an unusual modus operandi: In two break-ins over the Thanksgiving holiday, someone used a vehicle to burst open the doors of local businesses to gain entry.
A total of three businesses in Bingen and White Salmon were targeted by burglars on the day before Thanksgiving. All of the businesses are located on E. Jewett Boulevard.
Late in the night on Nov. 23 or early on Nov. 24, McCoy Video, Alpine Veterinary Clinic, and Nanny's Bakery were broken into. McCoy's suffered the worst damage, as the thief or thieves used a vehicle to smash in the front door to gain entry.
"We couldn't believe the mess we found inside," said McCoy's owner Ross McCoy. "The thief had pulled out drawers and dumped them on the floor along with movies, games, and piles of papers. The cash register and printer were in the pile on the floor behind the counter. So far, we think over $900 in merchandise was taken."
A vehicle was also employed to get into Nanny's, although the damage was not as severe in that case.
"It appears they used a vehicle for both," said Sgt. Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.
At Alpine Veterinary Clinic, the office safe was stolen. "Someone came in and walked off with our safe," said Dr. Craig Vance. "It looks like they were just after cash. They didn't take anything else, they just took the safe. Last year, they came in and took cash. At that point, we didn't have a safe."
Vance said the safe weighs more than 100 pounds.
"It had a small amount of cash in it, for change and daily operations," he explained.
Vance said the incident was similar to a burglary about a year ago, in which cash was taken from a locked box.
It was unclear how entry was gained to the animal hospital. According to Vance, no doors or windows were broken.
"I suppose the locks were jimmied or picked or something like that," he said. "Like everybody else, we'll review our security again."
Brending said it has been relatively quiet in the Bingen-White Salmon area for several months, until these crimes occurred.
"This is the first time multiple businesses have been hit on the same weekend in quite a while," Brending said.
According to Brending, there was not much value in what was stolen from the three businesses.
"Not a lot was taken," Brending explained. "There was minimal loss as far as actual booty stolen; there was far more damage in gaining entry."
McCoy agreed with Brending's assessment.
"The real cost is going to be repairing the building," McCoy said. "We're still working on those figures."
McCoy added that this is the second time his store has been broken into in 2005, and he hopes it will be the last.
"We're still waiting to go to court on the first robbery from Jan. 2," McCoy explained. "I'm looking into setting up a merchants fund to offer reward money for information leading to the arrest of anyone stealing from businesses. Maybe we can discourage the crooks, and slow down this rash of break-ins."
Brending said that anyone with any relevant information on the burglaries can call the police office anonymously at 493-1177 and leave information.
"We're no longer living in Mayberry," Brending commented.