In early July, four men climbed through the window of a Hyde Park house, held a 59-year-old woman at gunpoint, then assaulted her while they ransacked her home. The men later forced the woman into her car and drove to an ATM, where they told her to withdraw cash before dropping her off in Mattapan.
It was a terrifying attack, carried out in the middle of the night. And it was only the first.
There were at least five home invasions in Greater Boston in July, some of which, police say, have been unsettling and defy easy explanation.
The attacks, which occurred in Boston and several towns to the south, occurred between July 6 and July 24. In Milton, a couple was bound with duct tape inside of their home. In Canton, a 71-year-old man was pistol-whipped, and in Randolph, a baby sitter was tied up in a home by three men demanding money.
On July 24, two armed men forced their way into a home in Quincy but fled after a woman in the home screamed, police said.
Police have said two of the incidents are connected, and some have been random. Home invasions generally involve assailants who are searching for firearms, drugs, or money, and are specifically targeting their victims, though at least one of the recent incidents may have been a case of mistaken identity.
“[Home invasions] revolve around the perception that there’s something in the house of value,” said Jack McDevitt, a Northeastern University criminologist. “They are rare.”
Police have arrested and charged Cesar Lara Aguasvivas , 23, of Milton, in connection with the home invasions in Hyde Park and Milton. A second man, Odalis Pascual German-Perez , 21, of Mattapan, has also been charged in the home invasion in Milton.
In that attack, the pair approached a man outside of his house at 9:30 a.m. and ordered him back inside at gunpoint, police said. They bound the man’s hands and feet with duct tape, and loaded some of his belongings into a pickup truck, police said. Six hours later, when the man’s wife arrived at the house, they tied her up as well.
One of the men drove the man to a bank and threatened to harm his wife if he didn’t withdraw a large sum of money, police said. He did so, and the suspects released him and his wife in different locations in Boston.
“This was a very unusual thing,” said Milton Police Deputy Chief James O’Neil, who in his 30 years with the department could not recall a similar incident there. “This is out of the norm for Milton.”
O’Neil said a third man may have served as a translator for the suspects, who spoke no or limited English.
O’Neil said the home invasion in Milton was “clearly random” and that investigators are still trying to determine why the suspects targeted the couple.
Police do not believe there is a connection between the Milton incident and those that followed in Canton, Randolph, and Quincy, but investigators are looking into whether the suspects might have been part of a larger group, O’Neil said.
“Certainly with Hyde Park, Milton, Randolph, and Canton bordering one another and there’s four to six home invasions with that level of violence . . . it’s concerning,” he said. Milton police stepped up patrols in the area after the incident, but returned to regular patrols after the arrests.
Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston police, said that “with the arrest of the individuals responsible for the Hyde Park and Milton incidents, the public should feel safe.”
Despite the spate of attacks, authorities say home invasions are not becoming more prevalent.
“Most cases are not random,” McCarthy said. “Most home invasion crimes involve drugs or the theft of drugs.”
At the same time, perpetrators sometimes target the wrong home, specialists say.
“They’re told there are drugs in the house and there aren’t,” McDevitt said.
Police in Quincy are exploring whether suspects broke into the wrong home on July 24. On Standish Avenue, a 53-year-old woman opened the door to two armed men after they knocked, police said. The woman screamed, alerting three other men in the home, and the armed men fled empty-handed, police said.
James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University, said that although residents should take precautions, such as installing home security systems, there’s no clear evidence that home invasions are on the rise.
“I don’t think it’s worthy of panic,” he said.