Rockland Police Chief Christopher Young advised residents to call police if they see anything suspicious, and said additional exterior lighting would also help deal with a spate of break-ins in a city neighborhood.

Young met with 18 residents Thursday evening, July 16. The meeting lasted about an hour.

The chief said since Jan. 1 there have been 11 incidents reported to the department in that neighborhood. That includes three burglaries, two attempted break-ins, with the remaining calls being about thefts from cars and suspicious behavior.

Councilor Valli Geiger, who helped organize the meeting, said the goal of the meeting was to have residents share their concerns with police and to seek advice on how residents can stay safe.

The chief acknowledged that it is very stressful for residents who live in the neighborhood. The department recovered evidence at one crime scene and sent it off the state police crime laboratory, but Young said the evidence would be very low priority for the state lab. He said crimes of violence take priority at the lab, followed by cases in which there is a suspect to try to match DNA evidence.

There are no suspects in the case, but Chief Young said through his experience as a police officer for more than 24 years, including 15 years as a detective, he believes the suspect or suspects live in the neighborhood or regularly pass by it on the way to their home.

The chief recommended that people call immediately if there is a break-in, attempted break-in, someone looking through cars, or people walking in their back yards.

He said outdoor lighting would be helpful.

"I'm a big fan of lighting. It's proactive. Bad guys like to hide in the dark," he said.

He also urged people to lock their cars and their homes, both during the day and night.

One woman said about two weeks ago, she was looking out the window of the first-floor bedroom at 2:15 a.m. and saw a man who was reaching for the door handle. She said she screamed and the person ran.

Sgt. Scott Solorzano said these cases were the top priority for the Rockland department.

The chief acknowledged that there were no other areas of the city seeing such numbers of calls about break-ins and suspicious activities. He also cautioned residents that it was difficult to solve these cases without catching someone in the act.

Nationally last year, only 15% of burglary cases were solved with an arrest while in Rockland last year, the clearance rate for burglaries was 37%.

Geiger said while it was good that the neighborhood was coming together to try to deal with the break-ins, she warned against making accusations against individuals. She said someone posted the name and photo of a person in a group email and accused that person of involvement in the crimes.

"I found that incredibly disturbing," Geiger said.

She said there was not a shred of evidence that the person named in the email thread was involved in the break-ins.

"There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of assumptions," the chief said. He said the department did not want to focus on the wrong person and take away resources from trying to catch the real perpetrator.

Residents praised the department, saying police respond quickly when called.

The chief said he would keep residents updated if there are additional incidents or an arrest.