Resident's tip leads to 2 arrests in Urbana neighborhood hit by burglaries

Resident's tip leads to 2 arrests in Urbana neighborhood hit by burglaries

URBANA — Police are crediting a resident who called them Monday about suspicious activity in a neighborhood hit by burglars with the arrests of two young men.

Urbana police said they arrested a 17-year-old Champaign male who is now being held at the Juvenile Detention Center on charges residential burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle, and Jerome Ulmer, 19, of the 1400 block of Silver Street, Urbana, on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court for theft. He has not been charged with any recent burglaries.

Sgt. Matt Bain said police are reviewing dozens of burglaries that have occurred in south and east Urbana since the beginning of December to see if either of the two can be linked to any of them.

Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd ordered that the teen remain locked up at least until a Feb. 20 status hearing. The charges he was arraigned on Tuesday accuse him of breaking in a house in the 500 block of East McHenry Street on Jan. 16 and stealing the resident's car while she was out of town. He is currently on parole for residential burglary, Ladd said.

Bain said between the first of December and Monday — 72 days — there have been 52 residential burglaries city-wide. Most have been in the east and south part of the city.

"That's definitely higher than normal," Bain said. "At least two of those houses were hit twice."

An interactive map of the approximate locations of the reported burglaries is below:

"One of the main things we've been finding is that the people have been gone on vacation. We think they (the burglars) are knocking on the front door and if they are not getting an answer, they go to the back and force entry, either by breaking a window or kicking a door in. That's been a steady M.O. (method of operation)," Bain said.

Crime Stoppers tip

The break-ins were the subject of Monday's weekly Crime Stoppers bulletin, which urged residents to call police with even minor out-of-the-ordinary activity.

Bain said a man who was familiar with the burglary spree did just that about 3:30 p.m. Monday. He was on George Huff Drive and Shuman Circle when he saw a young man approaching houses and knocking on doors.

"Our patrol guys go out and watch and see who they later determine to be Ulmer going to front doors and talking to people like he's soliciting something. They watch him for 45 minutes," Bain said. "After they arrest Ulmer, they start checking houses and see (the juvenile) in a red jacket outside, and he runs to a house on Shuman Circle. They surround that house and arrest him."

It was only earlier Monday that investigators received information linking the teen to the Jan. 16 residential burglary that he was charged with.

Assistant State's Attorney Sarah Perry said on Jan. 17, police found a stolen Ford Escape in front of the home in the 500 block of East McHenry Street. That car had been stolen from the 400 block of Evergreen Court West during a break-in there that day.

Following footprints from the car to the back of the McHenry Street house, police found it had been broken into and ransacked. The resident's daughter told police her mother's Nissan Murano was not there.

Warrant issued

When the Murano was found Jan. 17 in the 800 block of Oakland Avenue in Urbana, police found a number of receipts inside. One was for a purchase at a fast-food restaurant that took place the day of the house break-in. Police got surveillance video from that restaurant and learned that the teen arrested Monday was buying the items found on the receipt in the stolen Murano. His parole officer identified him Monday, hours before he was spotted near Shuman Circle, Bain said.

The teen told police that he knocked on the McHenry Street resident's door on Jan. 16 and when he received no answer, he broke in through the back, trying to find a place to get warm. He admitted that he went through the home and stole the woman's car keys and eventually her car.

He also admitted that he had driven the stolen Escape that police found in front of the house but declined to tell police how he had gotten it.

Ulmer was arrested Monday on a warrant issued last month when he failed to show up for a hearing to revoke his probation in a misdemeanor theft case. He pleaded guilty in December 2016 to that reduced charge, admitting that he took a bicycle from a garage on Nov. 7, 2016, on North Willis Avenue in Champaign. A more-serious charge of burglary was dismissed and he was sentenced to a year of probation.

However, the state's attorney's office took steps to revoke that probation in November and Ulmer's attorney asked that his case be continued — three times. When he failed to show up at a Jan. 25 hearing, Ladd issued a warrant for his arrest.

He's being held in lieu of $1,000 bond and is due back in court on the petition to revoke his probation Feb. 20.

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