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One arrest may make major dent in Elgin car burglaries

Charles McCamm48 who lives North Jane Drive Elgcharged connectiwith five vehicle burglaries unlawful use bank cards Elgin. 1/117/13

Charles McCammon, 48, who lives on North Jane Drive on Elgin, charged in connection with five vehicle burglaries and unlawful use of bank cards in Elgin. 1/117/13

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Updated: February 19, 2013 3:06PM

ELGIN — Leaders of the Elgin Police Department frequently preach the importance of the public, patrol officers and detectives all working together. And that may never have been demonstrated more vividly than with the arrest of an alleged chronic criminal on Dec. 21.

Police announced Thursday that Charles McCammon, 48, who lives on North Jane Drive on Elgin’s west side, has now been charged in connection with five vehicle burglaries but is suspected of having committed more.

Probably many more, they said.

“We feel the city’s rate of burglary to vehicles will go down just because of this one arrest,” police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said. “McCammon is technically defined as a habitual criminal, and he is a drug user. We believe that after he was paroled from prison over the summer, he would go out on his bicycle at night, open the door of any parked cars he could find unlocked, and steal anything of value inside.”

Theriault said McCammon was arrested after several different sources pointed the same direction:

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda stopped to buy some groceries at the Jewel-Osco store on Larkin Avenue, and one of the Jewel employees mentioned to him that a suspicious-looking man came in often in the early morning to feed coins into the store’s Coinstar coins-for-currency machine. Detectives obtained video surveillance photos of the man coming and going from the store.

An officer patrolling the Randall Road area in the middle of the night on a bitter winter day noticed a man riding a bicycle. He didn’t seem like a guy just riding home from work, and nobody would be riding for pleasure in those conditions. So the officer questioned him, Theriault said.

A man who lives in a northwest-side apartment became disgusted by how often things were being stolen from parked cars in his complex’s parking lot. So he set up a video camera in his window. A few days later, it captured the image of a man entering an unlocked minivan and stealing a DVD player.

A resident of North Melrose Avenue said his wallet, containing $180 and a debit card, was stolen from his unlocked parked truck. He found out from his bank that someone had used the debit card to buy $52.92 worth of food from a fast-food restaurant along Larkin, just a block from the Jewel-Osco. Video surveillance footage from the restaurant showed customers who had ordered food at about that time.

A resident of South Alfred Avenue said her purse was stolen from her parked car on Dec. 19. A debit card inside had been used to buy food from the same fast-food restaurant. Again, video surveillance was obtained.

A resident of Jamestowne Lane said $36 and a prescription insurance card were stolen from his parked truck on Dec. 5. He discovered the prescription card had been used by someone at the Larkin Avenue Jewel-Osco. Osco surveillance video showed who that was.

Before joining the Elgin police force, Detective David Baumgartner had worked as a guard at the Kane County jail and had gotten to know frequent “guest” Charles McCammon there. When Baumgartner was assigned to investigate west-side car burglaries, he looked at the Jewel video, the apartment-house video and the restaurant videos. And he saw a man he was sure was McCammon. He also noticed the patrol officer’s report about interviewing McCammon riding around in the middle of the night on his bike.

McCammon was hauled in on a probation violation in December and now has been charged with several counts of burglary and unlawful use of bank cards. He is being held in the Kane County jail pending court action.

“Many of McCammon’s victims may not even know they were victims,” Theriault said. “They may not realize that the iPod has been stolen from their car instead of just getting lost somewhere. They may not realize that they have less change in their car than they did the night before. Or maybe they don’t think it’s worth reporting.

“But unreported car burglaries are a big deal to us. We want to know what’s happening out there.”

And keeping watch over habitual criminals is also a major part of Elgin’s strategy to fight crime, Swoboda said.

“A large proportion of the crimes in Elgin are committed by just a handful of people,” the chief said. “When one gets out on parole, we want to contact them, talk to them, keep watching their block and help keep them on the straight and narrow.”

Or prove they again have left the straight and narrow, and send them back to prison.

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