MASSILLON, Ohio — Residents in several Stark County communities have been on alert after a rash of home break-ins and car thefts that happened late at night or in the early morning hours.
In many of the cases, the crooks grabbed keys from inside of the homes and then stole the cars.
"It's a little nerve-racking that they're taking this next step of just not taking a running car or breaking into a car. They're actually trying to enter into a residence," said Massillon Det. Sgt. Nicholas Antonides.
Antonides said there have been five such cases since November in various Massillon neighborhoods, including break-ins and car thefts at homes on Woodview Drive NE, Woodland Ave SE and 16th Street NE.
"There have been some forced entries that we can see. There were unlocked doors. Some that had no idea it happened," Antonides said. "It's very quick and they may not realize it. It's in the middle of the night."
Similar crimes were reported over the same time period in North Canton, Canton and Perry Township, police said.
In recent weeks, police posted pictures on social media showing images of the suspects captured on home surveillance systems.
One of the victims in Massillon, who did not want to be identified, said she was asleep with her boyfriend and didn't hear anyone in the house. Her dog also didn't bark.
However, when they came downstairs in the morning, the couple realized someone had entered the home through a basement door and a set of keys along with a Dodge Journey had been stolen.
"It's violating. It's very violating," she said. "We're on such a quiet street that you never think it would happen to you."
After weeks of following leads, the investigation took another turn after a home break-in on High Street in Canton just before 5 a.m. Friday.
According to Canton Police Chief Jack Angelo, a burglar got into a fight with residents who then held down one intruder until police arrived.
On the 911 call, one of the residents told the operator, "Hurry up. He's in our house now. We got him down on the ground. We need somebody right now."
Angelo said the suspect is 17-years-old and is charged with burglary, felonious assault, obstructing official business and grand theft auto.
Police are now investigating whether that teen was involved in any of the other burglaries and car thefts in Stark County. Investigators are also searching for other suspects.
"We're using every little bit of evidence we have to move forward," Antonides said.