Video, stolen car report help police crack burglary

Video, stolen car report help police crack burglary

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — A John Street resident is facing charges and additional arrests are expected after surveillance video and a false report of a stolen vehicle helped lead officers to suspects in a burglary early Saturday at the Shell station at 155 Main St.

Justin Varas, 30, of 57 John St., was arrested Saturday afternoon on charges including breaking and entering a business with felony intent, larceny under $1,500 and conspiracy to commit each. Court records show that Varas, who is involved in several active drug cases, was released on personal recognizance and is due in Washington County Superior Court for a felony screening on Oct. 3.

Interim Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said Tuesday that the investigation began after police received a call from the manager of the gas station just before 5 a.m. to report that a window had been broken and cigarettes were stolen from inside the station. The station was not open when the incident occurred, police said.

The manager provided video images to police that showed three men in a 2007 Hyundai Elantra pull up to the station and get out, Lacey said. One of the men broke the window and reached in, taking 22 packs of cigarettes valued at $213. The three men then turned their attention to a business next door and tried to steal an ATM machine located on property belonging to Watch Hill Outfitters. Lacey said the men were unable to dislodge the machine but left behind fingerprints, ripped pieces of clothing, and blood droplets that were collected as evidence.

The car was visible on the video but the police said the men used clothing to mask their faces. Around midday, the police received a report from a Pennsylvania woman who said her vehicle had been stolen sometime in the previous 15 hours. The caller was known to police, Lacey said, as were several of her associates on John Street, where she had been staying. Lacey said the description directly matched the car seen in the surveillance video.

After speaking further with the car’s owner, who was not identified, she admitted that she knew who had taken the car but was unsure where they had left it.

The car was later found parked at Cimalore Field in Westerly and the police, acting on information provided by the car’s owner, found Varas hiding under a pile of clothing and blankets in a corner bedroom of his John Street home. Further suspects have already been identified as well, police said.

Lacey said the arrest shows that security cameras can help make a difference in community policing. “We highly encourage area businesses to use camera systems for security,” Lacey said. “This is a perfect example of how cameras can play an important role in an investigation. In this case, even though the video did not show a clear identity of those involved, it helped provide a description of the involved vehicle that let police establish connections that led to the arrest.”

The case remains under investigation. Additional arrests are expected, pending the outcome of several scheduled interviews and evidence analysis, Lacey said.


Latest Videos