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Jewelry thefts reported at two off-campus student rentals in Amherst

AMHERST — Two off-campus rentals appear to have been targeted by intruders during the weekend while student residents were away for the evening.

Amherst Police Detective David Foster said Monday that police are investigating the growing frequency of break-ins where suspects seem to know when students will be at parties or bars for the evening.

The first report came to police at 1:17 a.m. Saturday, when Alpine Commons residents returned to their Belchertown Road apartment to find jewelry stolen and two rooms in disarray. Entry was made through an open balcony door, Foster said.

Salem Place residents contacted police at 6:55 p.m. Saturday to report jewelry and electronics were removed from their residence while they were out the previous evening. There were no signs of forced entry.

Foster said the department is advising people to keep doors locked when they are away.

Amherst police officers spent considerable time trying to prevent alcohol-related problems during most of the weekend, particularly Friday night into early Saturday morning when the weather was dry and numerous college-age people were walking on streets near the University of Massachusetts campus.

“If officers noticed a lot of people, they spoke to the residents before it became problematic,” Foster said.

One focus was Sunset Avenue, where officers spent more than an hour ensuring that people loitering on the street did not cause problems and that noise generated did not lead to complaints.

At 11:19 p.m. Friday, police responded to the sidewalk in front of a Sunset Avenue fraternity house, where people were waiting for a party to begin. Then, at 12:11 a.m. Saturday, officers removed more than 100 guests from another Sunset Avenue property, getting assistance from the residents living at the home, who called as the situation began getting out of hand. At 12:28 a.m. Saturday, police sent around 75 guests on their way from another nearby home.

Police responded at 12:32 a.m. Saturday to a Northampton Road home, where they issued a $300 ticket to a 21-year-old Medway man they said violated the unlicensed keg bylaw. A bonfire initially drew attention of police and 50 guests gathered in the backyard were told to go home for the night, Foster said.

At 1:04 a.m. Saturday on Belchertown Road, numerous college-age people were walking in the middle of the street and some deliberately punched a slow-moving vehicle passing by them, police said.

About an hour later, officers shut down a party at a Belchertown Road home where people were gathered in the street and were a danger to themselves, police said.

The only four noise tickets issued during the weekend came at 1:09 a.m. Sunday, when four 20-year-old men at a Triangle Street home were responsible for holding a loud party, Foster said.

During the weekend, 22 people were arrested or summoned to court for various alcohol-related offenses, with most for being minors in possession of alcohol and violating the town’s open-container bylaw.

Police issued 10 warnings for violating the municipal noise bylaw, several of which required police to remove partyers.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department handled 37 medical calls during peak hours from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Sunday. Of these, 17 were related to alcohol consumption, with 10 at UMass, two each at Amherst College and Hampshire College, and three elsewhere.

Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said the medical calls were related to intoxication. “Our experience in picking up folks at dorms or around town, it’s all alcohol,” Nelson said.

All five Fire Department ambulances were out between 11:30 p.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday. Nelson said the paramedics got so busy during that period that the emergency first-response fire truck, which has a paramedic on board, was sent to Hampshire College to assist an intoxicated person, and the department had to request mutual aid assistance from a Northampton ambulance.

At the same time that the paramedic was responding to Hampshire, two fire alarms were triggered on the campus at Enfield House and Merrill House.

Nelson said this required two additional firefighters on board the emergency first-response engine to investigate whether active fires were in progress at either building. Nelson said firefighters determined the alarms were pulled maliciously, meaning resources were briefly diverted.

“If we can find out who pulled the alarms, we’ll come down hard on them,” Nelson said.

The department also had to assist Environmental Health and Safety at UMass in disposing of chemicals found in a building being cleaned out. The chemicals were safely destroyed by the state police bomb squad around 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nelson said.

Other mischief kept police busy. This included summoning an 18-year-old Milton woman to court on a charge of vandalizing property after she was found yanking handwritten notes from a small tree at Kendrick Park at 11:07 p.m. Friday, Foster said.

The notes had been written by passers-by who write wishes on cards and then attach them to the small evergreen tree.

For others, there was appeal in grabbing traffic cones set up near road projects. Police found a man on Lincoln Avenue at 1:52 a.m. Saturday throwing these cones in the air. He was told to stop. And at 11:29 p.m. Saturday on Fearing Street, a man carrying a traffic cone over his shoulder was told to drop it and put the cone back where he found it.

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