Police Catch Alleged Mass. Serial Burglar

(NECN: Alysha Palumbo, Boston) - Police say the suspect is a career criminal who's been arraigned more than 300 times.

They say he targeted the apartments he allegedly broke into by checking the mail room for stacks of mail - assuming the residents were on vacation; watching for when people left for the gym or work; and poking out peep holes to get a better view of whether anyone was home and what the apartment had to offer in terms of valuables.

Police say this man - 44-year-old Craig Cromartie of Framingham - was able to sneak in and out of apartment buildings throughout eastern and central Massachusetts over the past year, breaking into condos and apartments, sometimes staying for several hours, before making off with thousands of dollars worth of valuable property.

Police say he was a professional criminal, getting away with upwards of two hundred burglaries, and accumulating more than a million dollars in stolen jewelry, purses, rugs, artwork and other high end items - that is before he was nabbed by police in a multi-jurisdictional operation Monday.

"He was as experienced with this as I am with my job," said Needham Police Sgt. Joe O'Brien.

Police in Needham started detecting a pattern with break-ins last month and spread the word, eventually involving more than ten agencies to build a case against Cromartie.

"Because of surveillance, and because of an exchange of information and people not being afraid to talk to each other, we were all able to get together and culminate in the arrests that were made yesterday," said Brookline Police Chief Dan O'Leary.

Also arrested was 62-year-old Florin Ghita of Weymouth after police found about $250,000 worth of merchandise Cromartie allegedly stole being sold inside his Downtown Crossing jewelry store.

"It's one thing to steal, it's another thing to have a place to sell your stolen goods," said Boston Police Supt. Paul Fitzgerald. "Mr. Ghita knowingly provided that service to at least this one suspect."

This Garrison Square building in Boston was allegedly one of Cromartie's targets. Those who live here say the thefts are shocking.

"I just remember when we got the e-mail and my boyfriend and I were immediately double locking our doors," said one woman named Ashley.

"It's certainly scary, I mean I'm glad he's caught, but a place in this part of town or Beacon Hill or Back Bay is probably always going to be targets for break-ins," said resident Nate Roberts.

Police say they believe the suspect looked for specific high end items, for which he knew there was a re-sale market. They're asking anyone who may have been a potential victim to give their local police department a call.

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