SEE ALSO: Crime statistics useful, but not the whole story

Shirley Aldinger's defibrillator went off after she learned the Manchester Township home she shares with her husband, Karl Aldinger, was burglarized.

The stress likely caused a small cardiac event, but she came out of it fine, Karl Aldinger said.

The burglars, however, left a lasting impact on the couple.

"You do feel kind of violated when someone breaks into your home," Karl Aldinger said.

The Aldingers' home in an upscale neighborhood near the Out Door Country Club was one of 16 burglarized in Northern York County Regional Police Department's jurisdiction in September.

It was also one of roughly 200 burglaries allegedly committed by three men who were arrested in November for a multi-county burglary spree.

The numbers: An analysis of numbers compiled as part of Pennsylvania's crime reporting system shows burglaries decreasing in York County, and by larger percentages than elsewhere in the state.

Larceny thefts -- when someone steals something without the use of force -- increased in 2010, but are down so far this year.

The number of burglaries in the county fell from 1,468 in 2009 to 1,425 in 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System. That's a 3 percent decrease. Burglaries in the state dropped 1.4 percent over the same period.


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So far this year, the number of burglaries in the county also has dropped. There had been 1,002 in the county through September, as opposed to the 1,039 reported in the first three quarters of 2010. That's a 3.6 percent decrease.

Larceny thefts rose 3.4 percent from 7,003 to 7,240 between 2009 and 2010 in York County; at the same time the number dropped by 1.9 percent statewide.

But so far this year in York County, larcenies are down by 7.8 percent. Such crimes include shoplifting, pocket picking, purse snatching and thefts from vehicles.

A crime is classified as a burglary when someone unlawfully enters a building to steal something. Even if nothing is stolen, such a crime is still a burglary.

It's not easy to explain why the number of crimes has dropped so far this year, authorities said.

"Everything seems to come in spurts," said Sgt. Tony Beam of the Springettsbury Township Police.

Ring: Burglaries can be difficult to solve, since the crimes happen when residents aren't home.

"You don't have a lot to go on initially," said Arthur Smith, chief of West Manchester Township Police.

When the Aldingers returned home after the burglary, nothing seemed to be out of order. All of the electronics were where they are supposed to be.

But then Karl Aldinger noticed someone had gone through drawers and the suits he keeps in a bedroom closet.

Someone had been in their home. Burglars made off with about $5,000 in coins and jewelry, including his wife's 1947 class ring from Littlestown High School, he said.

While the items didn't hold a huge cash value, they meant a lot to the couple.

"Some of the things you can't replace," Karl Aldinger said.

During the ensuing investigation, officers first thought the burglary was connected to a number of burglaries in the neighborhood, said Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel.

All told, 14 homes in the neighborhood were burglarized between September and the middle of October.

The crimes all occurred in close proximity and shared some similarities, he said.

But as investigators dug a little deeper, they saw the crimes happened during different times of the day and different methods were used to enter the homes.

"It's just coincidental that (the burglaries) were all in the same area," Bentzel said.

Police arrested one group for two of the burglaries and a husband and wife for another.

Then investigators picked up on something. The burglary at the Aldingers' was similar to some committed in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County.

Arrest: Lower Paxton Police arrested Cody Allen Weidner, 21, of Topton, Berks County; Dean Thomas Barnes, 23, of Somerset; and Brian Keith Crammer, 45, of Hamburg, Berks County, after a sting operation. They were charged in Dauphin County.

The men are accused of burglarizing the Aldingers' home and seven others in Manchester Township.

When police searched a Hamburg home, investigators said they netted so many stolen items that a box truck was needed to haul away the accumulated loot, even though investigators believe much of it had already been sold for cash.

Investigators said the group would watch homes, looking for piled-up mail or uncut grass to pick targets. They also used trash collection schedules to see which houses weren't putting out trash cans.

The group could have been active for up to five years and hit homes in York, Cumberland and Dauphin counties and possibly some in other counties, police said.

What was odd about the case, Bentzel said, was the radius of the crimes. Criminals don't normally venture too far from home.

The case is an example of why departments need to work together to combat crime.

"Criminals are also very mobile today, much more than in the past, and law enforcement within the county need to find ways to work together to deal with all of the issues," said Chief Wes Kahley of the York City Police.

Drugs: Another thing unusual about the case is that Crammer, Weidner and Barnes made their living burglarizing homes, authorities had said.

A number of burglaries and thefts are spurred on by drugs.

Lower Windsor Township Police Chief David Sterner estimated that 50 percent of all crimes in the township are linked in some way to drugs.

"We get a lot of retail thefts," Smith said. "A lot of the doers are stealing to buy drugs or trade up for drugs."

Some go into stores with a shopping list of items they intend to steal. Others, he said, steal from stores instead of homes because they know the items, such as televisions, are new and work properly.

One possible driving factor of why thefts greatly outnumber burglaries is that most larceny thefts are misdemeanors, while burglaries are felonies. Criminals, Smith said, have wised up to that.

One thing that larceny thefts and burglaries have in common, however, is that both are on the rise at this time of year.

Springettsbury Township Police received requests from a number of stores in the township to have an officer present on Black Friday to help combat thefts, Beam said.

Fight is on: To combat all crimes, police officers are taking a more proactive approach, and a number of departments routinely solicit help from the public.

Departments, including Northern York County Regional, post information about crimes in their websites and ask the public to call in if they have any information.

"We believe we are getting more tips coming back to us," Bentzel said.

The experience of each individual officer also plays a factor in making arrests.

A number of Lower Windsor Township Police officers have been with the department for 12 to 13 years, Sterner said.

"They've been here long enough that they know who to ask for information," he said. "They know everyone."

York City Police have been urging the public to supply investigators with information about crimes they witness or know of. That, Kahley said, will lead to a long-term impact on crime.

"Our officers make great arrests daily of criminals causing problems within our neighborhoods, but that is only one aspect of making our communities safer," he said. "Everyone has to become involved in making their neighborhoods better."

-- Reach Greg Gross at 505-5434, ggross@yorkdispatch.com, or follow him on Twitter at greggrss.