String of Crime Plagues Mass Ave. Businesses

Electronic Equipment Thefts, Attempted Break-Ins, Vandalism Strikes Commercial Area

A rash of break-ins has struck the commercial district of North Cambridge over the past two months.

Damages have ranged from the theft of thousands of dollars in advanced electronic equipment to vandalism and attempted break-ins. Hardest hit was the 2300 block along Mass. Ave.

The Tax Man on 678 Mass. Ave. lost several computers, a printer, a copy machine and hundreds of dollars in cash while most other stores reported few if any losses.

"For the most part, it's just vandalism," said Jay A. Avery, division head for Accent Banner, the owner of the Flag Center on 2267 Mass. Ave. "Some stores had their windows smashed and nothing taken."

This has lead police two believe two sets of thieves were involved.


Christopher W. Bruce, crime analyst for the Cambridge Police Department (CPD), said, "One or two [break-ins] seem professional, while the others seem rather crude, just smash and grabs with not much savvy to them."

A "smash and grab" is a break-in in which the thief breaks a window and then quickly takes the valuables lying about, Bruce said.

Bruce said the incident at the Tax Man didn't fit the "smash and grab" pattern. "They had the guts to stick around and take a lot of stuff rather than just smashing the window and making off with whatever they could get," he said.

Bruce said he believes only one person or group is involved in the "smash and grab" break-ins.

Avery has his own theory about the vandals who hit his store.

"It's going to be a group of kids who are a little bored and who don't see a lot of police and who wanna smash something," he said.

Bruce said this is a typical crime rate for this commercial strip of Mass. Ave.

"Historically, [this area] accounts for more of our commercial break-ins than our other areas," he said.

Bruce pointed out that the commercial area is particularly attractive to vandals because of Mass. Ave.'s many getaway routes, the easy accessibility of its storefront windows and the constant street activity throughout the day.

"Most of the places broken into were first floor, easy access, with no apartments overhead which would wake people up," he said.

Police have nonetheless stepped up their presence in the area.

According to Bruce, more park and walk units now patrol the areas, safeguarding places where there has been criminal activity or community concern.

But Avery said this is not enough.

"It's about time for us to see more cruisers, especially at night. I get out at seven to eight at night, and I don't see any more cruisers than I ever have before. I mean, how many robberies and break-ins do you need before the police start coming up here? If this were Harvard Square, this would have been taken care of already. We're starting to get the idea that we just don't matter," he said. ,

But most incidents occur when no one is around. "Two break-ins occurred between 4:30 to 5 a.m. and the rest could have occurred at any time overnight," said Bruce.

Cafe Latte, Mediterranean Kitchen, Abbey Road, Starlight Video, The Brickyard Cafe, Big T Sub Shop, Stuff-It Bakery, The Way You Like It and Pulcinella's Restaurant were the sites of additional break-ins or break-in attempts, according to an article in last week's Cambridge Chronicle