TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Children play in a kiddie pool in the backyard of a home in the Hillside Town Homes complex in Brandon's east end on Friday afternoon. Residents in the normally safe neighbourhood have been rattled by a series of bizarre break-ins — in which nothing was taken — that some believe are the work of on man targeting single mothers.
Some residents in Brandon’s east end are sleeping with baseball bats following a rash of bizarre break-ins and attempted intrusions.
The rental townhouse communities of Alpine, Baker, Cascade and Delta bays have been plagued by break-ins for the last several weeks and single mothers are believed to be the target, several people in the area told the Sun.
Police are not jumping to any such conclusions.
What makes the crime string especially unnerving is there have been no thefts. Brandon police say since June 19, there were three break-ins and two other attempts reported, with the latest attempt on July 3.
Several people in the area told the Sun they believe it’s the same person breaking into each home; however, again police are careful not to say as much.
"We are not sure what he wants or what he’s doing," said Jamie Smith, one of the victims of a break-in attempt.
Under the cover of darkness in late June, a person sliced through the screen of an opened, ground-floor window at Smith’s townhouse, but the lurker was likely scared away when it was apparent she was still awake.
She did, however, catch a glimpse of a silhouette of who she assumes was a man through a narrow frosted window in the front entrance.
Her home was broken into less than a week after a break-in at the home of her immediate neighbour, who has since moved away — and who is also a single mother.
The new tenant, who moved in at the beginning of July, said he was informed by the landlord of the break-ins.
Smith said she has lived in the area for more than five years and up until now has never seen anything like this. She is one of the area women going to bed with a baseball bat — when she chooses to stay the night at all.
"I don’t stay here very much ... we’re all uneasy," she said, pointing to a piece of wood wedged in her front window for extra security.
Along with her baseball bat, Smith’s six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son sleep with her in her bed.
"When I stay here, I’m very sleep deprived," she said. "The cops said they think it may be someone who lives around here."
However, police say they have no idea if the suspect lives in the area and there’s no way of knowing for sure who the targets really are yet.
"No one’s drawn that as a firm conclusion," said Sgt. Dallas Lockhart. "There could be several different variables."
He said the fact there are several single mothers in the area could mean they’re not targeted, but just victims by chance.
The detachment’s crime analysts noted the suspect’s M.O. and the proximity of the break-ins make it "highly likely" they are connected, Lockhart said.
"We’ve certainly taken notice of the increased activity in that area, so that has warranted a change in our patrol plans," he said, careful not to give out too many details.
There have been several break-ins over the last two to three weeks, but suspicious activity dates back to at least April, Smith said.
She recalls seeing footsteps leading to her back window when the snow was still on the ground. After shovelling them away to see if they would come back, the footprints appeared at least six more times in a three-week timespan, though her house was never entered.
The fear has drawn many in the neighbourhood closer together.
"There’s a lot of us on Facebook that weren’t friends before and we’ve become friends in this situation because everyone wants to talk about it," Smith said.
Another victim, who did not wish to elaborate on the details of the intrusion in her home because the matter is under investigation, said the person came through the front door. Again, nothing was taken. She too has at least one small child.
Hillside Town Houses Ltd., the property management company, did not respond to the Sun’s phone calls.
Melissa Burkholder, who has lived in the area for almost two years, hasn’t been targeted, but said there has been little contact with either the police or the landlord in this case.
"It’s really scary right now because we don’t know what’s happening," she said.
"It’s a tiny little community down here, all the kids play together ... to have this going, it’s scary because it’s always felt safe."
Cops released a warning last Saturday for those in the area to make sure doors and windows are shut and locked while residents are away or asleep, and asked for the public’s help in tracking down suspects.
Police are working with only a vague description of the possible invader.
» Twitter: @grjbruce
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 12, 2014