In the past 10 days, 14 businesses and three churches have been burgled in the area between 15th Street and Fourth Street and Noble Street and Leighton Avenue, Anniston Sgt. Fred Forsythe said.
To try to stop the burglar or burglars, investigators spent hours operating a surveillance detail Thursday night.
“We rarely see this many burglaries downtown,” Forsythe said. “And they all seem to have the same MO” (method of operation).
Investigators suspect one or two men have been committing the crimes by walking into the buildings while they are open during the day, finding a place to hide until night, stealing what cash they can find and leaving the scene.
A photograph taken from one of the locations broken into has led investigators to believe they are searching for at least one male suspect.
Most of the businesses or churches — investigators declined to identify the burgled establishments — sustained little to no damage during the break-ins, or break-outs, rather.
The Rev. Lee Shafer of Grace Episcopal Church said the Leighton Avenue building was one of the churches targeted. Sometime during the night of Feb. 17, someone used a crowbar-like tool to break open the church’s vending machine and steal the change from it, Shafer said. The burglar also stole $200 from a desk in one of the church offices.
“We think that somebody got in and hid in there, because none of the doors were jimmied or anything,” Shafer said.
Forsythe said what Shafer described is similar to what’s happened at the other businesses and churches affected.
“One had $100 in cash taken from drawers; one had a floor heater taken … a bubble gum machine damaged … wood desk and wood door damaged, $120 in cash taken,” he said.
Forsythe said investigators originally suspected that only one man was committing the burglaries but now believe two men may be involved, although not working together.
Because the investigation is ongoing, investigators declined to provide information as to why exactly they suspect two men.
“At this point, we believe there may be two different individuals doing these, and they are not related nor know the other one is doing the same thing,” Forsythe said.
Police ask that anyone with information about the burglaries to call Anniston investigators at 256-240-4000.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.