«Pro» ranks thinned

Risto Berendson
, reporter
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In two initial months of the year the police caught eight professional thieves in Tallinn. A record. 

«An excellent result,» observed Toomas Jervson of Northern prefecture. His «apartment group» hunting the burglars day in and day out, eight arrests is over 10 percent of the total of 70 or so in the business in Tallinn.   

Add to this that of these, about a half are constantly jailed and the other half out and busy – and thus back and forth non-stop – and the percentage gets even better. «We are always working hard and we hope March will be as fruitful,» said Mr Jervson.

Of the arrests in February, the grandest was in week one as three Russian speaking burglars undertook to empty the Mustamäe apartment of a colleague currently in prison.

The apartment building did feature security cameras but the thieves reckoned that as the victim was «locked up» the police would get no crime application. They would just tidily close the door after leaving and the theft would go unnoticed – knowing that security recordings are generally only preserved for a month or two.

Alas, not to be so. The very night of the theft, a close relative of the owner visited the apartment and found it rather emptied out. Remarkably, even the large LCD TV set had been hauled off. Nowadays, large items are usually avoided not to draw attention.

As the theft was detected so fast, the cameras clearly show three burglars known to police and aged 34–39 are leaving the scene, one carrying the TV.

The thieves, one of whom was recognised for his peculiar gait, and others after the clothes, were held during the next few days in different parts of town. One had been at liberty for about a month, the other a bit more than that, and the third an entire year.

From times before, the police knew the individual behind the latest burglaries in Nõmme. At the beginning, the investigators were having difficulties as Nõmme area private house thefts were the domain of another guy and he was in jail die to driving without licence.

«We were observing that in several instances a man shovelling snow had been seen near the location,» said Mr Jervson. The crook had thus been nicknamed Shovel Man by the police.

Why the shovel? On the one hand, it helped the crook dispel potential suspicions among neighbours. On the other hand, he wiped out his own footprints. As the episodes kept heaping up in Nõmme to be five or six , the police finally got the trail of Shovel Man.

«For a month we worked tirelessly with that,» said Mr Jervson. Finally identifying the veteran apartment thief, they arrested him on the street by surprise.

Turns out, the guy became Shovel Man by pure accident: preparing to do burglary one day he spotted these old ladies watching. To distract them, he grabbed a shovel that happened to be handy and launched into cleaning out the fresh snow. This worked wonders and developed into a professional cover.

Another of the three was caught red-handed. With criminal record of 13 episodes, Deniss was just out of prison in October. He was working city centre and Old Town, trying out apartment doors to see is some were left unlocked.

In the evening of February 18th, he was lucky to get into an empty apartment. Just as he was about to exit with valuables, a man connected with the flat entered. At the sight of him, the thief fled to  the roof thru a fanlight.

Summonsed, the police did detect a plastic bag with stolen stuff on a roof ladder, but no thief. Eventually, he was caught exiting another apartment where he hid by breaking a window.  

Also arrested are two thieves who worked separately at apartments in Mustamäe and Õismäe. «Their crimes were committed last year but our work finalised only now,» said Mr Jervson, adding it usually does take two months.

Granted, the eight caught meaneth not that problems are over. BY nature, apartment thefts detecting is an endless battle because as some get jailed, others are already being released. Being professionals, they usually stick with the trade – often the only skill of theirs  to make a living.

«Already, we know that two guys are getting out at any moment. They were working city centre. Knowing them, we will have work on our hands,» predicted Mr Jervson.