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Journal News gun database being monitored in connection with White Plains burglaries

NEWS12 WESTCHESTER: Pictured are homes on Davis Avenue in White Plains. Police are investigating possible links to a controversial handgun permit database after a residence on the street was burglarized Saturday, a source tells Newsday. (Jan. 13, 2013)

White Plains Police Commissioner David Chong said his department is continuing to investigate a break-in at a residence that was listed on a controversial handgun permit database published by a local newspaper.

It would be "premature and speculative" to say the burglar targeted the Davis Avenue home Saturday because it appeared on the Journal News website as being owned by a man in his 70s who has a gun permit, "but it is something that we're looking into and will continue to investigate," Chong told Newsday on Monday.

Although he has not seen a pattern of break-ins connected to homes that were listed on the interactive database, which was posted Dec. 23, Chong added, "We are cognizant of it and we will be monitoring it."

The police chief could not say whether one or more burglars broke into the Davis Avenue house, but he noted that $6,000 worth of jewelry was stolen and "there were pry marks on the gun safe."

The thief used a utility ladder to reach the rear second-floor window of the home and shattered the glass to gain entry between 7:15 a.m. and 8:26 p.m. Saturday, while the owner was out, according to a police report.

The victim "stated he has a gun safe on the second floor and that his information was in the Journal News about his gun permits," according to the report filed by White Plains Police Officer Morgan Finnie. "The gun safe had markings of an attempt to open, but the suspects failed and the safe was still locked."

The head of the White Plains Police Benevolent Association, Robert Riley, said that if the burglar had opened the safe, police and public safety would be at risk with another gun in the hands of a criminal.

"The Journal News printed a virtual treasure map for criminals," Riley said Monday. "It lets the bad guys know who is vulnerable, due to not having a gun permit, and where to go if they wanted a gun."

The Affiliated Police Association of Westchester County, an umbrella group that represents 53 law enforcement agencies in Westchester County, is planning a news conference Tuesday at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains to address the publication of the gun permit database.

"The Affiliated Police Association of Westchester County Inc. is putting The Journal News on notice that we will hold them accountable for any incident where any of our members are involved in an incident where a person, criminal or ex-con presents themselves at the residence of one of our members as a result of their name being made public by the Journal News," said Robert Buckley, vice president of the APA.

No arrest had been made in the Davis Avenue burglary as of Monday afternoon, police said.

Officers did nab a suspect Saturday night who might be responsible for a string of recent break-ins, Chong said. He was identified as Dexter Smith, 32, a homeless man from White Plains who has a long criminal record of larcenies, the police commissioner said.

White Plains has experienced a spike in burglaries in recent months, Det. Lt. Eric Fischer said Monday. Neither he nor Chong had precise numbers on the break-ins, but a source within the department said eight White Plains homes have been burglarized in the past week.

In 2012, there were 83 burglaries in White Plains, according to the department's CompStat statistics, up from 46 burglaries reported in 2011, according to FBI statistics.

Chong attributed the rise in burglaries to the struggling economy. He said he had assigned extra police to investigate the break-ins, but he declined to offer further details about efforts to prevent the incidents.

"Anytime you have unemployment and economic problems, these types of crimes rise," he noted.

Chong said the arrest of Smith and the jailing two weeks ago of Myles Hamlin, 19, of White Plains, and Dwayne White, 22, of Brooklyn, moments after they allegedly broke into a Linda Avenue home as potentially having an impact on home burglary attempts. All three men have been charged with one count of felony burglary.

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