BELLINGHAM - Two Mount Vernon residents are under investigation for 20 break-ins at Bellingham businesses, according to police.
Darlene M. Connor, 56, and Douglas Leif Jones, 44, were charged this week with two counts each of trafficking in stolen property.
Police suspect that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Since early December 2012, police have documented 20 similar break-ins at Bellingham toy stores, antique dealers, barber shops and other small businesses. A chunk of scrap concrete was found at the scene of every burglary, said Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young.
"Every single one," he added.
A few minutes before midnight on March 13, witnesses saw a red Dodge Caravan with the license plate AAL8795 parked in front of the Fairhaven Antique Mall, 1201 11th St., according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. The driver honked the horn when he saw a bystander calling police. Someone lumbered out of the mall carrying a cash register, then dropped the loot while hustling into the van. They drove off into the night.
But police traced the license plate to Connor, the van's registered owner. She lives with Jones in the 400 block of 30th Street in Mount Vernon. Detectives discovered the pair had separately pawned an eagle pendant, a butterfly broach, a sterling silver dog, a silver turtle and other pieces of jewelry at four pawn shops in the Mount Vernon area. All of those trinkets had been stolen from Bellingham businesses, according to the charges.
Police are still trying to determine how many actual break-ins were carried out by the Mount Vernon duo. In several burglaries, the suspects broke in by throwing the scrap concrete through glass, picked up the cash register and walked off with it, according to police.
"The obvious million dollar question is, 'Why not charge them with burglary?'" Young said. "Well, that depends on the fruits of the investigation."
Connor has a felony on her record. Her bail was set at $25,000; Jones' bail was set at $10,000. Both were still locked up as of Thursday afternoon, March 28.
Anyone with tips about the crimes should call Detective Tim Ferguson at 360-778-8824 or the police tip line at 360-778-8611. After hours, call 911.