Business and home burglaries have escalated in Petaluma recently, and police suspect a burglary ring could be responsible for some of the crimes.
In the past four months Petaluma officers have investigated 47 burglaries, compared with 17 in the same time period last year, Lt. Tim Lyons said Tuesday. Of those, 22 were homes and 25 were businesses.
At least seven commercial burglaries appear to have been committed by the same person or people, Lyons said.
They've used a rock or other item to break a window and get inside. They've taken the register outside, broken into it and then dumped it nearby landscaping.
"It's a strange spot of bold burglaries," said Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association.
Business owners are angry, she said.
"(The burglars) are taking the opportunity to take advantage of the small businesses," McCusker said.
Businesses hit for cash included a yogurt shop, hardware store, bakery, two restaurants and the Allano Club, a nonprofit agency serving people trying to control alcohol and drug addictions.
"I was actually hurt a little bit," said Ross Bracken, Allano Club general manager.
"They broke the back-door glass window and climbed in, cut the power cord on the cash register" and took about $150 from the till, Bracken said.
In addition to the loss of cash, the door and register had to be replaced.
"It was a $600 event, which is a lot to a little group like ours," he said.
In four other recent business break-ins, someone took items, not cash, including a keyboard from a music shop, tools from a hardware store and lottery tickets and alcohol from a liquor store.
Someone also recently broke windows but failed to get all the way inside other businesses, including the Boulevard Bowl, a deli and a market.
Most of the commercial burglaries have occurred at night and have been in west Petaluma, concentrated near downtown in the area of East Washington and Petaluma Boulevard North.
Other business burglaries include a report filed Monday of a loss of copper worth $1,000 at a Petaluma Boulevard North construction site. It was the second burglary at that site since Nov. 16.
On Sunday, residents of a Mark Street home reported a loss of tools, a commercial paint sprayer and a barbecue from their backyard.
And on Monday, police arrested a 16-year-old girl, suspected of burglarizing a neighbor's Petaluma Boulevard South home for the second time.
Police recovered stolen items from the girl, including vodka and more than $200 in cash, Lyons said.
Numerous unlocked cars have been targeted as well, he said.
Lyons said it was unclear why the numbers were so much higher this year. He said typically police see an increase in property crimes with the approach of the holidays.
He asked anyone seeing something suspicious late at night to call police. He also reminded drivers to lock their cars and business owners not to leave cash in their registers overnight.
At the Allano Club, Bracken said money is no longer left in the till.
Police have met with business owners and the Petaluma Downtown Association has sent alerts to members, McCusker said.