BAR HARBOR — Police here have a suspect in a string of thefts from roadside firewood stands on Sunday and Monday in three Mount Desert Island towns.
Cash was reported missing from stands in Bar Harbor, Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor. In total, money was reported missing from eight stands, and there could be more, according to Lieutenant Dave Kerns of the Bar Harbor Police Department.
The roadside stands operate on the honor system. Customers are asked to put cash in a container to pay for each bundle of firewood. Containers range anywhere from coffee cans to securely locked boxes. In this case, police said the suspect stole from locked and unlocked containers. Locks were either broken or cut to gain access.
The suspect, who police are not naming because he hasn’t been charged, is in custody at the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. He was arrested Tuesday on outstanding warrants by another law enforcement agency. Officer Soren Sundberg interviewed the suspect at the jail and will be talking to officials in the district attorney’s office.
Kerns said he expects the suspect to be charged with theft and, possibly, criminal mischief. Because of past criminal history, the charges against the man most likely would be at the felony level, even though the cash amounts of each incident are modest, he added.
Tips leading to the suspect came from two sources. A Town Hill resident whose 12-year-old son operates a camp wood stand said he saw someone breaking into the stand at 3:45 a.m. Sunday. He was alerted to movement in the yard by his dog, he said, and saw a vehicle turn around in a driveway across the street. Then he noticed a light come on near his son’s wood stand, saw the suspect break into the money box and yelled loudly to scare him away.
“A lot of people are glad somebody was caught doing it,” the witness said. “It’s disheartening to have money stolen when it’s hard work to split the wood and operate the stand. These guys have been cleaning my son out. The police have been extremely responsive.”
A passing motorist reported a small white SUV in the same area and took down the license plate number. Other information came from a security video, Kerns said.
The total amount of cash taken is not known. Typically, the owners of the stands check the boxes frequently so a large amount of cash doesn’t build up, Kerns said.
Thefts were reported Sunday and Monday from three stands in Bar Harbor and three stands on the Seawall Road in Southwest Harbor.
On Monday, Mount Desert police received complaints about thefts from stands in Somesville and Seal Harbor. One victim estimated that $35 had been taken.
Reporter Liz Graves co-authored this story