Police hope that two arrests made over the weekend will end a three month-long string of vending machine thefts, crimes that had become a high priority for officers at Boston-area schools.
In an at times chaotic scene early Saturday morning, in which one police cruiser was heavily damaged, the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) took John McCauley, 36, of Manchester, N.H. and Keith Morley, 29, of Dorchester into custody on several felony charges.
Shortly before 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, a security guard at the law school reported that two men, one wearing a ski mask, were using a crowbar to break into the vending machines in the tunnels under the International Legal Studies (ILS) department. By the time the guard spotted them, police found that three machines had already been burglarized.
Because of Head of the Charles weekend, HUPD had a substantially larger-than-average shift on duty, and the call received a full-scale response.
"It was a hot call," Officer Brian Lakin said.
Sergeant Robert Kotowski and Officer Jack O'Kane spotted the suspects quickly.
"We got to the bottom of the stairs and saw the damaged machines, and the suspects fled," Kotowski said.
Kotowski and O'Kane gave chase, radioing their location to units outside. The chase passed under ILS, through the tunnels to Austin Hall and outside where HUPD officers were waiting.
"Whatever way they exited, they weren't getting far," Kotowski said.
Outside Austin Hall, McCauley and Morley were caught and arrested by officers Lakin, Andrew Gilbert, George White and David McLane.
Kotowski said police found "large amounts of evidence" on the two men.
The situation was complicated when patrol officer Kevin Harrington, while responding to the call, rear-ended a taxi at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Peabody Street--within sight of the arrest scene.
Harrington's cruiser, car 296, was damaged heavily. The passengers in the cab had to be extricated by the Cambridge Fire Department.
Harrington and the cab's passengers were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries and released. Harrington is expected to return to work within a couple of days, Sergeant Robert Cooper said.
The crash diverted some units from the arrest scene and caused widespread confusion on police radios, as units were simultaneously dispatched to the foot pursuit and the accident.
Police hope to tie the suspects arrested Saturday to a small crime wave of vending machine break-ins that has hit Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Across the area, vending machines at the schools have been jimmied open at the rate of two or three per week per school since late summer, police have said.
HUPD, working in conjunction with other Boston-area police departments, has been actively searching for the suspects for weeks, using security cameras, plainclothes officers, special details and increased patrols by police and security guards in the hopes of catching the culprits.
Police charged both McCauley and Morley with breaking and entering in the nighttime, breaking and entering a depository, two counts of possession of burglary tools--all felonies--and trespassing, a misdemeanor. The investigation into the thefts will continue, and additional charges may be forthcoming.
"We've been working this really hard, and this was the break we needed," Kotowski said.
The thefts have come in waves. In the course of two weeks just before school started, every vending machine at the law school was hit at least once.
--Staff writer Garrett M. Graff can be reached at email@example.com.
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