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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 22, 2012

Four Westerlo men arrested for stealing weapons from home in Berne

HILLTOWNS — Four young men from the Hilltowns have been arrested for burglarizing a house on West Woodstock Road in Berne and stealing a cache of weapons, some of them illegal. The Albany County sheriff suspects the incident might signify the early arrival of this year’s wave of burglarized seasonal homes that comes with the warmer weather.

“What happens in the Hilltowns a lot is, the weather starts to break, people come back up, and find their camp or their beautiful house was broken into,” Sheriff Craig Apple told The Enterprise Tuesday. “This year, with the weather breaking early, we anticipate we’ll be getting more calls.”

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office arrested four men from Westerlo: Thomas J. Bushnell Jr., 22, of Route 85; Stephen E. Yakel, 19, of Route 85; Jacob C. Ostrander, 19, of County Route 401; and Dylan R. Bishop, 21, of Route 85.

They were each charged with four felonies: second-degree burglary; third-degree grand larceny; fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property; and fourth-degree conspiracy. They were also charged with petit larceny and third-degree criminal mischief.

All four subjects were arraigned at Westerlo Town Court by Judge Kenneth Mackey, and remanded to Albany County’s jail, with bail set at $10,000 each. All four men are still in jail.

Apple said that the homeowner was the uncle of one of the suspects, though he did not say which, nor would he say what led the police to believe these four men committed the burglary, saying only, “It was a tip.”

“With the seasonal homes, we have a catalogue,” Apple said, “and our midnight patrols will go check up on them. Each house has a property number, and we’ll call out and say ‘We’re checking up on such-and-such house,’ whatever the case may be. So, we’ll be checking up on a home on Wednesday, and it’s fine. Then, we’ll check it again on Saturday, and it’s been hit.”

A photo from the sheriff’s department shows a table covered in weapons and other items stolen from the Berne home, including: a pair of rifles; ten knives; five swords; two pairs of binoculars; a compound bow; a crossbow; an ammunition belt; and the Friends complete-series DVD collection.

“Basically,” Apple said of the suspects, “they had talked about it, they knew the place was very appealing, they knew what was in there, and they just went and did it. They’re not saying whether they were going to sell them, or — hopefully not — use them. We really don’t know. But they knew what was in there, and they knew it was a clean hit.”

Apple was unsure of the total value of the stolen items.

“Guns nowadays usually go for $500 or $600 a piece; plus, they had crossbows and everything else,” he said, adding that some of the recovered weapons are illegal.

“He had brass knuckles, and certain types of knives that are illegal in this state, but you can buy them in other sates,” said Apple. “We’re not going to charge the guy for having these items, but we’re certainly not going to give them back.”

Sheriff’s deputies obtained search warrants of the suspects’ homes, and have recovered some of the stolen items, but the case is still being investigated.

“We’re still missing a couple small pieces of property, and we want to know if these individuals were responsible for any other burglaries,” said Apple. “Most burglars don’t wake up on Monday morning and decide they want to burglarize a house. This house was a little more appealing, because the one guy knew the homeowner, and he knew what was inside. But it’s also common knowledge that a lot of these are seasonal homes.”

Apple thinks that one reason these burglaries occur is, “There’s nothing for these kids up there to do,” he said, and he thinks the sheriff’s office could lend a hand in changing that.

“We offer something nobody else offers,” Apple said of the sheriff’s office. “Yes, we are cops. But we also have a paramedic program; fire-coordinator program; 9-1-1 dispatcher; we have a jail, so you could be a [corrections officer]. So, I really want to start and explore a program. Partnering with the New Scotland Justice Court is a perfect avenue; they can come volunteer their nights. Maybe I’ve got delusions of grandeur, but I think we can give these kids some opportunities.”

By Zach Simeone

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