By Jennifer Solis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — In one of her final times acting in an official capacity, state Rep. Harriett Stanley (D-West Newbury) recognized local police and her Indian Hill Street neighbor for their above and beyond efforts in solving two house break-ins last year — one that occurred in Stanley’s own home.
At a selectmen’s meeting last week, Stanley presented police Chief Lisa Holmes, Sgt. Jeff Durand and officer Royster J. Johnson with three commendations from the state Legislature for excellence in police work that eventually led to the conviction and incarceration of a thief charged with breaking and entering two Indian Hill Street homes in fall 2011. Stanley’s was one of the homes that was robbed.
James Igoe, Stanley’s neighbor, received a community service award for the role he played as a key witness in the investigation. Stanley called the effort of all involved a good example of “making community policing real.”
Following the meeting Holmes said she was “extremely appreciative” when Stanley contacted her several weeks ago about the awards. Noting how devoted her officers were to solving the crimes, Holmes called the recognition for Durand and Johnson “well deserved.”
“I personally know how much time they both committed to this investigation and that they each put in innumerable hours of their own time in order to solve these crimes,” she said. “It was a combination of luck, hard work and perseverance that helped solve these crimes.”
When Holmes was recognized by Stanley and praised for “running the kind of department that encourages this kind of police work,” she deflected the compliment and pointed instead to Johnson and Durand. “It was them,” the police chief said.
When Johnson was called to investigate a breaking and entering crime that had occurred earlier at an Indian Hill Street home, Igoe told him he had observed a vehicle leaving his neighbor’s driveway shortly before the homeowners had returned.
As luck would have it, as part of routine traffic monitoring he had been conducting on Indian Hill Street, Johnson had just run the registration for the vehicle a few minutes prior to receiving the call to respond to the past B&E. Igoe’s statement was critical in helping the officers in their investigation by placing the vehicle Johnson had just run the plates on at one of the homes where the crimes had occurred.
“You made a huge difference,” Stanley told Igoe. Then addressing his three young sons — Drew, James and Johnny — she added, “Boys, you should be very proud of your father.” Igoe’s wife, Lisa, was also present for the recognition.
Holmes said due to the hard work of her officers, eventually the suspect was arrested, convicted and is currently serving jail time for his crimes. Although not all items stolen were recouped, Stanley stressed that wasn’t the point. The important thing is “we got him,” she said, referring to the robber.
But as these officers well know, the job of keeping the town safe is never finished. Recently the department issued a statement on the West Newbury Public Safety Facebook and Twitter accounts noting that police are currently investigating three separate housebreaks that have occurred in town over the past 2 1/2 months.
The notice reads in part, “This is the time of year when there are more break-ins and thefts due to the holiday season. UPS and FedEX often use rental vehicles to keep up with their workload. We ask that residents secure their property, vehicles and pick up packages left on the their doorsteps as soon as possible after delivery. Please report anything suspicious or out of the ordinary to the police, 978-363-1213.”