LEWISTON — It's been a bad summer for home burglaries.
In addition to the usual break-ins, several people recently have reported that their houses were entered while they were home or just minutes after they'd stepped out.
Lewiston police and Bates College security officers this week are investigating a rash of burglaries during which gangs of young people knock on doors and ring bells to see if anyone is home.
If nobody answers, that's when they go in and start stealing.
One woman who lives near the college had not one but two run-ins with the increasingly bold thieves. Just over a week ago, after she had stepped out of her house for just a few minutes, somebody went into her house and stole her wallet.
More than $1,000 was taken in that heist. The victim said the suspects went on a shopping spree, using her cash and credit cards to buy a number of items from local stores.
Police are investigating that burglary.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the woman was home with her children when she heard a commotion on her porch.
"My son heard it and then I heard it," said the woman, who did not want to be identified.
When she went to investigate, she found two teenagers, one preparing to enter the house, the other watching the street.
"The car wasn't in the driveway," the homeowner said. "I wasn't home the time before; I'm sure they thought I wasn't home this time."
The woman yelled at the burglars, telling them she was going to call the police. They tried to convince her not to do so before fleeing on their bicycles.
Police were notified and once again launched an investigation.
"They told me there have been a ton of burglaries in this area," the homeowner said. "It's just crazy. And it's scary. They came back a second time. How do I know they won't come back again?"
On another side of the city, off Pleasant Street, a man and his wife were sleeping when thieves entered their home and made off with a number of items. That victim has since offered a reward for their capture.
Closer to downtown, another woman reported she was asleep when burglars entered her home and stole her television.
Exact statistics weren't available Thursday night, but police acknowledged that burglaries of all kinds seem to be on the rise this summer. They are trying to combat it in a variety of ways and suggest citizens do the same.
Lock your doors and windows, of course. That's the first advice. But police also suggest citizens should report anything they regard as suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods; a network of extra eyes and ears doesn't hurt.
"Watch your neighbor's house," Lewiston police Sgt. Michael Whalen advised, "and have them watch yours."
The woman whose home was burgled a week ago said she intends to implement her own precautions while trying to get the word out to others. Meanwhile, she's waiting to see if the thieves will come back. They're so bold, she said, she's hoping they will slip up.
"I'd like to see them get caught," she said.