Burglaries plague James St. homes

By Gus Bode

A rash of burglaries has forced some residents of South James Street to develop homemade security systems, complete with boarded up windows and beer-bottles on window ledges.

Since November, residents at 403, 405 and 407 S. James St. say their homes have been vandalized or burglarized multiple times.

The most recent report comes from Scott Carney and his roommate, who live at 407 S. James St. Carney, a senior studying finance from Granite City, said he and his roommate returned home late one night from a bar about two weeks ago to find their back window shattered.

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Nothing was stolen, but Carney believes someone was in the process of entering the house when he and his roommate returned.

Despite some residents saying they have been burglarized as many as three times in recent months, Carbondale Police Officer Randy Mathis said the department has only received two calls from residents on the 400 Block of S. James St.

Mathis said there are no records for burglaries at 403 S. James St. or 405 S. James St. and only one criminal damage to property record for 407 S. James St. Mathis said the only house that has reported a burglary is 409.

But Carney said the latest incident was the third time someone has entered his home since November. During the first burglary, which reportedly occurred over Thanksgiving break, a Playstation game system, a DVD player, and multiple Cds and DVDs were stolen.

During Christmas break, Carney and his roommate decided not to chance it and took their valuables home, a choice they didn’t regret when the returned to a kicked-in front door and open window.

As a result of the burglaries, their landlord, Paper Rentals, which was not available for comment, has installed a new front door. Carney said he his roommate have also nailed two-by-six boards over their windows.

Next door, Carney’s neighbor has his own story to tell about a break-in.

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Brad Szlezak, who lives at 403 S. James St., said he returned home one Sunday morning in November after a night of barhopping with friends when a strange feeling came over him.

He doesn’t know why, but he decided to sleep with his camping hatchet that night.

Around 3:30 a.m. he was awakened to the noise of someone in his room rambling through his drawers. Wielding his hatchet and screaming profanities, Szlezak said he chased the intruder out of the house.

“I just popped up, grabbed the hatchet and screamed at the guy,” Szlezak said.

Szlezak, a junior studying outdoor recreation from Bartlett, said he normally uses the hatchet to cut firewood when camping.

“It was the only thing I could think of, if someone broke in, to protect myself,” Szlezak said. “I didn’t want to use it, obviously, but I think it scared him enough because I had it up in the air.

“When you wake up from a dead sleep, you’re not expecting somebody in your room. I was so boggled I didn’t know if it actually happened.”

Szlezak’s roommate, Drew Eckman, a junior studying hospitality and tourism from St. Charles, said the intruder used a crowbar to pry open a kitchen window.

He said nothing was stolen but since the break-in, the two have screwed their window frames shut and placed two-by-six boards with nails protruding from them over their windows. Szlezak said he did not get a good look at the intruder but said he was a short, black male.

Szelak’s neighbor, Brendan Bailey, who lives at 405 S. James St., said someone broke into his house Halloween night through an unlocked back door while his roommate was inside sleeping. Bailey, a junior studying advertising from Petersburg, said a $500 bike and a jar of change were taken.

The bike later turned up at the Bike Surgeon, where Owner Will Scherschel said a black teenage boy brought the bike into the store looking to sell it.

Scherschel said he recognized the bike and out of curiosity contacted the previous owner, who had sold the bike to Bailey’s friend. He said the individual who brought the bike in never returned.

Bailey said he and his roommate have since placed beer bottles on their window ledges and covered the windows with plastic to help deter another break-in. He said they have also had their deadbolt locks repaired.

Mathis said there are no suspects in either of the reported incidents. He said the cases are still under investigation.

Residents of 409 S. James St., the only house police have a record of being burglarized, were not available for comment. Carney, Szlezak and Eckman said the house has been broken into several times.

Carney said he is simply frustrated with the situation.

“It’s just a hassle having to worry about getting your stuff stolen,” Carney said. “And that maybe somebody is in the house while you’re sleeping. I feel shattered that I have to pay to live here when people are breaking in our house every time someone is gone.”

Reporter Ashley Richardson can be reached at [email protected]

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