Break-ins Stoke Fear

by Bella Ishanyan, News Editor
graphic by Emily Cheng

Five house break-ins occurred in Newton from June 13 to July 10, resulting in the loss of valuable belongings. Locations and dates include:

  • 900 block of Walnut Street on June 13
  • 600 block of Dedham Street on June 19
  • Helene Road on June 20
  • 700 block of Quinobequin Road on June 27
  • Country Club Road on July 10

To Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, the number of break-ins was normal, but after the first few incidents Newton police noticed a pattern: all victims were Asian American homeowners. 

“The number of break-ins [was] not unusual. In a typical year, we have 80-100 break-ins,” Fuller said. “What was interesting and disturbing was to see a pattern where each subsequent one was still another Asian family.”

Following the intrusions, Newton Police Department Chief John Carmichael said that the police took measures to investigate the crimes and communicate their concern to the affected residents.

“We did a lot of directed patrols, a lot of community outreach to the people that were involved, we started to do some walk and talks in the neighborhoods [and] we canvassed the area after each break to see if anybody may have seen anybody suspicious [or had] any type of additional information,” he said.

Carmichael said that footage provided by the affected homeowners shows the intruder, who committed the first and fourth break-ins, holding paperwork that read “missing.” They suspect this perpetrator went door to door looking for an empty house, potentially using the flyers as a cover story.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said she and her team are working to determine whether the break-ins will be charged as a hate crime, though as of August 16, they are not being considered an act of Asian targeting.

“We don’t know what’s going on yet because we don’t have all of the evidence we would need,” she said. “But there’s certainly suspicion when every break-in that happens over a period of time, where the victims are Asian American families, it certainly suggests to you that people were being targeted.”

Like Ryan, Carmichael said there may be more to this case, but that the police do not have enough proof to officially conclude that the break-ins are a hate crime.

“I’m very much on facts. Definitely a theory is that these Asian families all seem to have been targeted, [but] I just can’t support that with anything yet until I’m able to prove it,” he said. “I want to be able to say this theory, but I also want to be able to prove it in court.”

‘21 graduate Stephanie Tian said that this incident and the fact that it isn’t labeled as racial targeting has become a trend among crimes against Asian Americans. 

“When something first happens, like with the shooting in Atlanta, people almost try not to title it a hate crime or to say that it’s focused on one specific group,” she said. “People seem to be a little more hesitant to label things as racially motivated when it’s towards Asians.”

After noticing a change within her family, senior Cat Lu said that as an Asian resident, she has felt a change within the Asian American community following the break-ins.

“The difference that I saw in my parents was really shocking to me,” she said. “It was really alarming for me when my mom would say, ‘oh, make sure you lock the doors.’ Yes, she always said that before, but it raised more concern afterwards.”

Mayoral candidate, former City Councilor-At-Large and active member within the Asian American community Amy Mah Sangiolo said that the lack of publicity surrounding the break-ins has been problematic for the victims and those in the community.

“I was upset that there was not enough publicity about it when it first happened,” she said. “After the third incident, it should have been evident that people needed to hear what was going on, and there was not enough attention until there was an outcry by some of the victims about it not being made more public.”

After the case gained more publicity, Fuller said that residents should stay cautious while the perpetrators remain uncaught. 

“We have a strong and supportive police department here,” Fuller said. “Despite these break-ins, overall, we still are a really safe community, but look out for each other [and] help each other, and together, we’ll take care of each other.”

To combat burglaries, police advise homeowners to safeguard their properties, communicate with neighbors before leaving the house and report suspicious activity. If you see unusual behavior in your neighborhood, report it to the Newton police at (617)-796-2100.