Girl hides, calls 911 as burglar breaks in

MILL CREEK – The 14-year-old girl knew to call 911 if someone were to ever try to break into her home.

She never expected it to happen.

On Wednesday, she was home alone watching television when a man she didn’t know began ringing her doorbell. After ringing it several times, the man began kicking the door.

The girl grabbed her cordless phone, crawled under the deck behind her house and called 911.

She heard the crash inside when the man broke the door down.

“I thought I was going to die,” she said Thursday evening. “I thought I was never going to see my family again.”

The girl’s quick phone call led police to arrest a 39-year-old man from Edmonds they believe broke into her Mill Creek home. The Herald is not publishing her name because the ordeal has left her family frightened.

Police also believe the man may be connected to dozens of burglaries in Mill Creek-area neighborhoods this year.

Police found the man’s car running in front of the girl’s home, and he was found hiding in bushes about a block away, Mill Creek police spokeswoman Becky Erk said.

The man was arrested on unrelated warrants and is being held at the Snohomish County Jail in Everett. Investigators hope to pursue charges of residential burglary, possession of stolen property and drug violations, Erk said.

“We’re just very, very proud of the girl,” Erk said. “She did the right thing, and the police department is very impressed with how she handled herself.”

Investigators found jewelry, two sound-mix boards, two cameras, a cell phone, a VCR, two sets of silverware, suspected drugs, drug paraphernalia and roughly $6,000 worth of baseball cards in the man’s car, Erk said. Police are still trying to determine whether the items are stolen.

Despite the arrest, police still don’t see an end to the ongoing break-in problem.

There have been 82 burglaries in Mill Creek since Jan. 1. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has also investigated dozens of burglaries in neighborhoods just north of the city.

By comparison, there were 76 burglaries in Mill Creek in all of 2005.

Mill Creek police have arrested 18 people this year in connection with nine of the city’s burglaries. The rest remain unsolved, Erk said.

“We’re off the charts with residential burglaries,” Erk said. “We just can’t be everywhere. With the limited resources we have for patrols, there’s just no way.”

Most of the Mill Creek burglaries have happened during the day, when people are usually gone at work or school.

Police believe the thieves are knocking on doors and ringing doorbells to check whether people are home. They’ve entered homes through unlocked doors and windows and, in some cases, have broken doors down.

That’s what happened Wednesday, Erk said.

Police worry this may happen again because many children are out of school for the summer. Children left home alone should never open the door to strangers, Erk said.

“A person who is knocking three or four times, or ringing the doorbell several times, who is not known to you, that’s aggressive behavior,” she said.

Anyone who sees anything suspicious in their neighborhoods should call 911, Erk said.

The 14-year-old girl agrees.

“If this ever happens to anyone else, they shouldn’t call their friends, they shouldn’t call their neighbors,” she said. “They just need to call 911 right away.”

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