SARANAC LAKE - Seven downtown businesses were targeted in a late-night burglary spree that took place around the time village police were tied up handling a report of two people being robbed at gunpoint in their apartment.
Police Chief Bruce Nason said the tenant of an apartment building on Broadway contacted police at 11 p.m. Monday night to report that three people forced their way into their apartment. One of the robbers displayed a black handgun.
Nason said the trio reportedly made off on foot with $1,500 in cash, an unknown quantity of marijuana and electronics equipment. The three suspects had reportedly covered their faces to conceal their identities, but Nason wouldn't say with what. He also wouldn't name the location of the apartment building where the robbery took place, only saying it was between the Saranac Lake Adult Center and the village firehouse.
Saranac Lake police Chief Bruce Nason, left, talks Tuesday with Jim Minnie, whose Onsite Computer Service business and recording studio was burglarized the night before. Guitars were stolen, but this one was left behind on the back porch.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"We're not trying to be misleading, but if somebody tells us, 'Hey, I saw them come out of this apartment building,' it's more credible," Nason said. "If somebody describes what they used to cover their faces, I'll know the witness has accurate information."
Late Tuesday, Nason said police had identified one of the suspected robbers. A search warrant was executed at his residence and some of the stolen items were recovered. Nason said the suspect was no longer in the area but police know where he is and are working with other law enforcement agencies to take him into custody.
"If anybody saw or heard anything in that area around that time, or if there's anything they can do to assist us, it would be greatly appreciated," he said.
Meanwhile, police learned Tuesday morning that the alleged robbery wasn't the only crime that took place in the village Monday night. Sometime overnight, a burglar or burglars successfully broke into five downtown businesses, three of which are located next to each other on Main Street: Owl's Nest Pizza Parlor, Blue Moon Cafe and Ayres Insurance and Realty. Onsite Computer Service on Woodruff Street and the Left Bank Cafe on Broadway were also burglarized. Police found signs of forced entry at the NorthWind Fine Arts gallery, which shares the same building as the Left Bank Cafe, and another business on Broadway that Nason declined to identify, but they didn't get into those businesses.
In each of the successful burglaries, the business' owners or employees reported the break-ins when they showed up for work Tuesday, Nason said.
At the Blue Moon, which was the first to be reported, the cafe's front door was smashed in and its cash register stolen. There was money inside the register, but Nason wouldn't disclose how much. There was no other damage to or theft from the business, Nason said.
A little later in the morning, police got a call about a similar burglary at Owl's Nest. The suspect or suspects broke in through the back door and took a small amount of cash from a tip jar.
At Ayres, Nason said a back window was pried open, but there didn't appear to be anything missing inside the business.
On Woodruff Street, Onsite Computer Service owner Jim Minnie said he came in to work in the morning and was surprised to find the front door unlocked. In addition to his computer service, Minnie also has a recording studio in the back of his business.
"It struck me as a little odd; I mean, I've never left the door unlocked," Minnie said. "I started looking around, and I noticed this gap between two amplifiers where a buddy of mine was storing guitars. He had three or four guitars there. So I started looking around, and they got about six guitars."
Nason later told the Enterprise that nine guitars were stolen from the business. Minnie said the burglar or burglars were very particular. They only took the guitars, even though Minnie said there was even more valuable recording equipment and several computers inside.
He said he didn't know how the suspects got in, although he believes they must have pushed in the back door of the business. Outside on a back porch, one of the guitars was left behind, leaning against a table. Police planned to dust it for fingerprints.
"They either got spooked or they forgot it," Minnie said. "I don't have a clue who did it, but I'm thinking it was kids. It's not somebody who really knew what they were doing, because if they knew what was valuable they could have taken a lot more."
Elsewhere, Nason said the suspects broke into the building that houses the NorthWind gallery and the Left Bank Cafe through a rear window. At the cafe, cash and coins were taken from a cash register, and a laptop computer was stolen. Nothing was apparently taken from the art gallery, Nason said.
Nason believes the Monday night burglaries are related to two other recent crimes: a Sept. 6 burglary at Bear Essentials, a clothing and screenprinting business next to the Berkeley Green at the corner of Main Street and Broadway, and a Friday evening theft at Another's Treasure, a used furniture store on Broadway.
At Bear Essentials, the suspect or suspects broke in through the back door and stole the business' cash register, which contained an undisclosed amount of cash and checks, and a couple of Saranac Lake Red Storm sweatshirts.
At Another's Treasure, Nason said a man and woman came into the store, one of them distracted the clerk, and the other stole about $250 from the business' cash register. He said police are "fairly confident" they know who those thieves are and hope to make an arrest soon.
Nason said he thinks the burglaries are all drug-related.
"There are definitely drug issues involved, whether it's substance abuse or whatever," he said. "I have enough information that I'm confident enough to say these burglaries are related to people looking for money to buy drugs."
Nason said police are reviewing footage from surveillance cameras at other downtown businesses that face the street in an attempt to identify the suspect or suspects, or a vehicle that may have been in the area. He also said police have sent out evidence from the burglaries for fingerprint and DNA analysis.
As for the reported armed robbery, Nason said he doesn't believe it is connected to the burglaries; however, he does think the burglars went to work Monday night because they knew police were busy dealing with the robbery.
"It certainly looks like that while they saw our vehicles on Broadway for an extended period of time, that they took advantage of that," Nason said. "We usually don't get this many places (burglarized) like this all at once."
There were two people in the Broadway apartment at the time of the alleged robbery, both of whom Nason said were in their mid to late 20s. One of them suffered minor injuries in a scuffle with the three robbers, who were described as two black males and one white male in their late teens to early 20s, each between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet tall.
Asked if the tenants admitted that their marijuana was stolen, Nason said, "It didn't take much for them to tell us. When they told us they were robbed and we asked what was taken, they readily admitted marijuana was taken." He said he didn't know if the tenants would face any marijuana possession charges until the investigation is completed.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.