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Arrest made in business burglaries

Business burglaries have been occurring almost nightly in Medford since late January, with few arrests so far.

The list of targets has run the gamut: bakeries, sushi restaurants, eateries, golf courses, salons, flower shops, rural stores, markets and construction sites.

"I think it’s become frustrating to all of us. We don’t have that crystal ball that tells us where it’s going to happen," said Medford police Lt. Kerry Curtis.

On Tuesday, 13 days into the month, Medford police had responded to 12 business burglaries. In January, they responded to 17.

Police made an arrest Monday that may clear the books on a couple of the crimes. Mark Dahlin, 43, was arrested in connection with two recent burglaries, at Hiro Sushi, in the 3600 block of Aviation Way, and The Country Store, in the 1600 block of Kings Highway.

Video surveillance captured a thief breaking the front glass door at Hiro Sushi Sunday and taking an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register. Video showed the suspect fleeing in what appeared to be a small SUV, police said.

On Monday, Medford police responded to a burglary at The Country Store. Video surveillance showed two suspects enter the store and go immediately to the cash registers, stealing an undisclosed amount of cash and several cartons of cigarettes, police said.

Monday afternoon, police arrested Dahlin for his alleged involvement in the Hiro Sushi burglary. Detectives later searched Dahlin's vehicle and found evidence that led them to add charges related to The Country Store burglary, police said.

Cash registers have been the main target in most of the business burglaries. But plenty of other property has been taken, too. At one construction site, thieves made off with about $8,000 worth of tools. In a burglary at Great Harvest Bread Co., where the main target was money in a safe, other missing items included a box of small CO2 cartridges used in whipped cream dispensers.

"I felt like they were looking for anything of value they could use," said Great Harvest owner Lisa Allen.

A sweets baker for Great Harvest discovered the Jan. 25 break-in when she arrived at work at 3:30 a.m. She called police, who found the burglars had broken two wooden panels from a fence behind the bakery, then smashed out a rear window with a cement block. The thieves trashed the interior, pulling drawers out of an office desk and till, stealing cash and dumping property on the ground. The safe, which was bolted to the ground, was damaged and plundered of its contents. The incident came at a time when the bakery was in the middle of replacing its plumbing.

Several weeks removed, Allen feels the bakery is back on its feet. It has purchased a new safe and installed an alarm system, with some financial assistance from patrons.

"(It's) an amazing community to pull together and help us," Allen said.

Such help is an encouragement, but it doesn't make the recent burglary blitz any less discouraging, she added.

"It makes me feel like our community is changing," Allen said. "It makes me sad that so much criminal activity is causing people a lot of strife."

Police believe the same individual or group of people is responsible for the break-ins. Detectives continue to work on identifying suspects. Surveillance video has been key, Curtis said.

"(They) increase our chances of solving a crime exponentially," he said.

Central Point has not seen a similar surge in burglary activity, Detective Josh Abbott said. Other than a slight rise in package thefts and vehicle break-ins over the recent holiday season, it's been par for the course.

"We've been fortunate," Abbott said.

Unincorporated areas in Jackson County also have maintained about average numbers, with 16 business burglaries so far this year, according to data from Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Julie Denney.

Medford police recommend business owners take several steps to reduce the likelihood that they will be next. Cash should not be left in registers, and owners should install alarm systems. Increased exterior lighting, state-of-the-art locks and camera systems also should be considered, they said.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

Mark Dahlin