Brookfield police Major Jay Purcell had an interesting story to tell when asked to recall obscure thefts in his town.
Police were investigating an overnight burglary at Kent Royal Tobacco Store on Federal Road, which was solved after investigators followed a debris trail to the stolen item. From there, police eventually tracked the suspect to a nearby condo unit and arrested him.
The suspect had thought he had stolen the “cash register,” Purcell said, and he had tried to break into it to get the “cash out.”
“When I talked with him the next day, he said, ‘I’ve got to know… How much money would I have gotten if I could have gotten the cash register open?’” Purcell said. “I told him 'not a dime.' He had stolen the Lottery machine, which is just a computer. He left the actual cash register at the store.”
Whether it be a Lottery machine, a set of copper pipes, a few dozen bottles of baby formula or even $500 in teeth whitening strips, area police departments have seen some obscure larceny and burglary incidents in the past several months.
While police often confront larceny or burglary — often, although not always, by drug-addicted suspects searching for something to sell — the items often stolen can be the typical fare of money, jewelry or electronics. But, as police in the Danbury and Waterbury areas have noted, sometimes the items stolen can be unexpected.
“It never ceases to amaze people in law enforcement the things that people will take, or steal that are not theirs,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the Connecticut State Police. “It brings to mind that we say to people 'if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is too good.’ If someone sells you baby formula at a third of the cost, I’d be cautious to give it to my baby.”
Specifically, police in Naugatuck have dealt with a few baby formula thefts in recent months. Last summer, a Waterbury man was arrested for several thefts in the Naugatuck and Waterbury areas, in which he from stores like Big Y without paying for it.
Arguably, an even more obscure larceny arrest hit Naugatuck recently when police arrested three men for stealing on New Haven Road.
“The cardboard theft was the first time I’d ever seen that,” said Capt. Jeremiah Scully of the Naugatuck Police Department. “There must be a market value for it.”
According to police, it can fetch $100 a ton on the street.
And if that sounds bizarre, in October police said a CVS pharmacy in Monroe reported that the 135 Monroe Turnpike was victim of a theft of teeth whitening strips. The perpetrator, who was never caught, made off without paying off $553 worth of strips, which are usually valued at $20 a box, .
Monroe police have also had their fair share of dental care thefts. Lt. Brian McCauley, of the Monroe Police Department, said Crest toothbrush thefts were also on the rise this year.
But, as McCauley noted, there is a market value for these items, even if it’s a small amount.
"He could sell [the whitening strips] to a smaller store in the city that's disreputable,” McCauley said. “He makes pennies on the dollar, but if he's stealing it and it costs nothing, it's all profit."
Not all items stolen are just resold on the street. Some are used for personal consumption, like Red Bull, Scully said.
“Back when it first came out the young kids were mixing it with alcohol,” Scully said.
In one example of a Red Bull theft, Naugatuck police said a woman from a borough supermarket.
Various scrap metals also fetch good prices on the market. In Newtown, police reported a from a construction site at 266 Main St. Copper, a commodity often stolen from abandoned houses, can go for $4 a pound, according to news reports.
Copper thieves also aren’t just driving around during the middle of the night looking for homes to break into.
“They are reading the newspapers, looking at the houses that are for sale and going in and stealing the copper right out of the houses,” Scully said.
Naugatuck police had this problem with the former Peter Paul factory building, as well as the former Uniroyal building. Burglars would break in and steal the copper pipes, he said.
“Metals can many times be scrapped, but it’s important to note that even in the scrap yards they keep records of people that try to get rid of that stuff to turn a fast dollar,” Vance said.
Historically, it’s not uncommon for drug-addicted people to steal to feed their habits, he said.
“Many times it can escalate to many forms of thefts such as burglary where they are breaking into homes and sheds and vehicles, taking whatever they can,” Vance said.
And it’s not uncommon for people in large cities to migrate to rural areas where they commit the crimes. Vance gave the example of Morris, Bethlehem and Woodbury, where urban dwellers will go to make their thefts.