Al Brogdon is frustrated.
Three times in the past 13 months Brogdon's home in the quiet wooded countryside of exurban Damascus was burglarized in broad daylight. The last burglary, which occurred on Monday, came after Brogdon had installed key locks on all his windows and deadbolt locks on his doors, all at the urging of the Montgomery County police crime prevention unit.
In the two prior cases, it was Brogdon's own legwork, not that of police, that eventually led detectives to arrest two teen-agers who lived within a five-mile radius of his home and charge them in connection with both burglaries.
"We try our best to keep a peaceful home. But all this keeps coming down on our head . . . It's enough to drive you up a wall, Brogdon said.
County police say the Brogdon burglaries are an example of how the county's burglary problems is spreading from the wealthier inner suburbs to the once sleepy, relatively crime free county areas like Damascus. And police say, because of the increased logistical problems of covering a growing county of 506 square miles, they are forced to limit the amoung of time they spend on "ordinary" house burglaries such as Brogdon's.
There are 5,500 burglaries in the county last year of which about 4,000 occurred in homes and apartments, according to police. At least 65 percent of the home burglaries took place during the day and in many cases burglars did not need to used forced entry, according to police.
Such was the case in Monday's burglary of the Brogdon home. There the burglar mare off with $383 in cash after entering the home through one of the doors equipped with a deadbolt lock. Apparently, however, the door had not been closed properly, according to police, so that the bolt never caught.
Nonetheless, Brogdon feels police are not doing an adequate job. "I'm beginning to lose patience with police," he said. "I'm beginning to think they don't pursue these (burglary) cases with as much diligence as they should."
"When somebody's house is burglarized, it's usually an experience a person has never had before," said Lt. Ralph Cooley, who recently became director of the department's crimes against property division. "They feel that somebody ought to get excited, you see thousands of burglaries. So how excited can you be? You're concerned, but not excited.
"We're not going to pull out the stops" for every case, he said.
The crimes against property division was recently criticized in a police internal audit for closing investigations into cases that were actually unsolved. The report said that the detectives in the division, after making an arrest in a single burglary case, often closed several other cases as well simply because the burglary happened to occur in the same area of the county.
The report also questioned the amount of work the detectives do on the burglary cases.
When the Brogdon home was broken into in January 1977 and a digital clock, cassette recorder, a radio-scanner and ceramic music box were stolen, he began interviewing people who live in a subdivision near his home who may have seen the burglars.
Two youths in the neighborhood recalled seeing a young man carrying a pillowcase full of some large articles to a parked car near the wooded area across from Brogdon's home.
It was only after Brogdon turned up the car lead on his own that detectives finally went out to interview the area residents.
Last June, when Brogdon's home broken into again, close to $2,000 worth of goods were stolen, including three cameras. Two days after the burglary, Brogdon began calling bought and sold the same brand of camera dealers in the county who camera that had been stolen from him.
The camera had indeed turned up at a Wheaton camera shop. And although it had already changed hands four times since the burglary, police were able then to trace it back to the two youths who were eventually arrested in connection with both the January and June burglaries.
Brogdon says he remembers he never had to lock his back door in 1972 when he moved to Damascus.
"All we wanted to do was be left alone and not be bothered and not bother anyone. So we moved out to Damascus and all this silly . . . starts happening," said Brogdon, a technical editor with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County.