By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — Police here are investigating a burglary of Susie's Place that happened over the holidays.
Susie's Place is a child advocacy center where staff members conduct forensic interviews with children to investigate abuse allegations. Since opening in April 2009 the facility has been utilized by numerous law enforcement agencies and county Department of Child Services organizations, and coordinated cases with four other states.
Officials with the Avon Police Department reported being dispatched to Susie's Place about 8:30 p.m. Christmas Day. Emily Perry, director of the organization, told investigators she had come to the office to complete payroll when she noticed several offices, including hers, had been ransacked.
Police say electronics including laptops and an Aleratec tower DVD burner were stolen from Susie's Place. Perry also said $100 in cash was taken from a safe.
Neighboring business Retirement Housing Foundation also was reportedly burglarized. Police say the thief or thieves made off with computers, digital cameras, memory cards, cash, and even a bottle of wine from there. The total loss to both offices is estimated at $8,500.
Det. Brian Nugent of the Avon Police Department said they currently have no leads on who was behind the break-in, and they're still gathering forensic evidence. Someone working at Retirement Housing Foundation left the office at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. No one else was reported back in the building until Perry arrived on Christmas evening. Police believe the robbery occurred sometime in the overnight hours of Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.
At this point Nugent doesn't believe Susie's Place was targeted because of its work. There was no vandalism on top of the thefts.
"I think it most likely was someone or some people looking for valuables like electronics," he said. "Blinds were left open on some of the windows. Anybody on foot could've walked up and seen what was in the office."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at 262-TIPS. Nugent said that's Avon PD's preferred method of receiving confidential information. Any calls and texts that Crimestoppers receives can't be traced back to the informant.
"It helps people stay completely out of the mix," Nugent said. "It's proven to be incredibly productive for us to use."
Perry said Susie's Place hasn't conducted any interviews since the robbery. They had to postpone a couple that were scheduled for last Friday.
"We should be resuming our normal operations after the new year," Perry said.
Before the robbery the office only had a fire alarm system, which the thief or thieves disconnected while gaining entry through the front door. Susie's Place is having a security system installed now, which was donated by Synergy Telecom.
"I think then we'll feel a little safer about being in here," Perry said. "None of us want to come in after hours right now. None of us want to be the first to take that midnight call."
Their main concern now is that one of the computers that was stolen contained their entire case database. While that information is encrypted and would be tough to crack, officials are still trying to contact everyone named in their investigations.
"I don't think (the thieves) were interested in that information anyway," Perry said. "We want to reassure the public that this is nothing to worry about. We just want them to be aware of the situation."
Visit the website SusiesPlace.org for more information.