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Burglars hit nearly two dozen Perham homes in one day

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Two Perham men and one Detroit Lakes man have been arrested in connection to a string of residential burglaries in Becker and Otter Tail counties.

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The number of break-ins totalled 21 in the Perham area alone. Reports were pouring in for several days, and may have continued coming in when this edition went to press.

"It's really unsettling...it raises the anxiety level," said one of the victims, Perham homeowner Scott Bjerke.

Suspects include 19-year-old Garett William Frank of Detroit Lakes, 18-year-old Jesse Michael Reed of Perham, and 18-year-old Mitchell Keith Reller of Perham.

A number of the entries were made into homes that were occupied - which makes the incidents all the more brazen.

"That's pretty gutsy," said Bjerke, whose garage was entered and an iPod stolen. An elderly neighbor was also a victim, with the buglars entering through a garage window and possibly even entering her house. She lost gasoline cans, tools, and other items.

"It definitely increases the awareness of the need to keep things secure in your own home," said Bjerke.

According to Perham police records, the three men and a 17-year-old Detroit Lakes girl left Detroit Lakes the night of October 1 with the alleged intent to steal gas in Perham for the vehicle they were driving.

Around midnight, a Perham police officer observed one of the suspects walking between residences dressed in a dark colored jacket with a hood pulled over his head. The officer later pulled over a vehicle driven by the same party.

After being stopped for suspicious activity, the driver, Frank, was issued a citation for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. The officer found a marijuana pipe and a small scale in the vehicle. While investigating the vehicle the officer also observed and confiscated a 12 inch long screwdriver that was bent at the end. It is believed this tool could be used for home invasion purposes

It wasn't until 7:05 a.m. Friday, October 2, that the first report of a burglary came in to the Perham Police Department. A resident in northwest Perham reported that papers had been scattered in his car, and an I.B.M. Think Pad laptop computer and case were missing. The man also found a flashlight that was left behind in his vehicle.

The majority of the burglaries--most of them in northwest Perham--involved garages, some where entry was made and others where entry was attempted. At least a dozen houses reported having the screen cut on garage windows.

Items reported stolen from Perham residences include a CD player, cell phone, iPod, 2.5 gallon gas can, vehicle keys, sunglasses, a digital camera, and some cash.

In one of the burglary reports, a woman's purse was stolen and was later found on a neighboring property. The suspects allegedly stole the woman's Visa credit card out of the purse, and then used the card later Friday morning.

According to the Perham police report, the suspects purchased $1,366.48 in merchandise on the stolen credit card. The single purchase was made at Wal-Mart in Detroit Lakes, and primarily consisted of clothing items.

At 2 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 3, the Becker County Sheriff's Office called Perham police to notify them that two adult males and one female juvenile had been taken into custody with property belonging to a victim of a burglary.

According to the sheriff's office, the arrests have helped recover stolen property and have resulted in the closure of at least three dozen burglaries committed over the last six to eight weeks.

The Becker County Sheriff's Department conducted interrogations with Reller and Reed regarding the multiple burglaries. Perham police officer Nick Stromme, who handled the majority of the Perham burglary and attempted burglary calls, went to the Becker County Jail to assist with the interviewing of the two suspects.

A Judicial Determination of Probable Cause to Detain was approved by a judge. Charges listed on the detainer were: accomplice to 1st Degree Burglary, accomplice to 3rd Degree Burglary, and Possession of Burglary or Theft Tools.

Officer Stromme's report, including information gathered during the interviews in Becker County, will be forwarded to the Otter Tail County Attorney's Office for review of charges. Also included will be information gathered during the Perham traffic stop that occurred right before many of the Perham burglaries are believed to have been committed.

The sheriff's office anticipates more charges will be filed against other individuals as the investigation continues. The juvenile girl has been released to her parents.

Victims of recent burglaries are asked to refrain from contacting the sheriff's office at this time. Individuals will be notified by the sheriff's office as property is recovered during the investigation.

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