Arrest for Altamont break-ins followed by Guilderland arrest

Paul Harris

Paul Harris

John Pietrzak

John Pietrzak

ALTAMONT — “Our burglaries are usually family-related. Outside people don’t usually do burglaries in Altamont,” Detective Christopher Laurenzo of the Altamont Police Department said on Friday.

He was referring to two suspects — Paul Harris, 66, and John Pietrzak, 26 — believed to be responsible for two home burglaries — one on Sand Street and the other on Western Avenue in the village — in which jewelry, cash, and some small electronics were taken. The dates of these incidents were Dec. 21 and Jan. 5.

The two have been arrested and arraigned for break-ins in Colonie, Laurenzo said, and are suspected in cases in Bethlehem, Guilderland, and Feura Bush.

Guilderland Police arrested Harris on Jan. 25 for second-degree burglary of a dwelling and for fourth-degree grand larceny, both felonies, according to Guilderland’s deputy chief, Curtis Cox. Jewelry and coins were taken from a State Farm Road home on Jan. 12, Cox said, and Guilderland police worked with Colonie, Altamont, and the State Police to make the arrest.

The two men are in an intimate relationship, Laurenzo said, which he knows from speaking with Pietrzak and from viewing a videotaped interview of Harris by the Colonie Police.

Pietrzak, who lives on Holland Road in Schenectady, was arrested in Altamont on Jan. 19 and arraigned that day in Altamont Village Court, Laurenzo said, while Harris was arrested and arraigned on Jan. 24. Both men were already being held in Albany County’s jail on the Colonie charges.

Pietrzak’s arrest reports show that he was charged, in both Altamont break-ins, with second-degree burglary of a dwelling, a felony, and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor.

In one incident, he was also charged with fourth-degree grand larceny — property greater than $1,000, a felony. In the other, he was also charged with third-degree criminal mischief — property greater than $250, a felony; and with petit larceny, a misdemeanor.  

One of the homes showed signs of forced entry, Laurenzo said; in the other case, the burglars gained entry through an unlocked window.

Some of the property taken from each location was recovered, but “a lot of the valuables were already pawned and sold,” Laurenzo said.

Of Pietrzak, Laurenzo said, “He’s not the big fish in this picture.”

Harris, Laurenzo said, is a “career criminal” with a long history of arrests for burglary and had completed a 22-year prison sentence just 10 months ago.

In the Sand Street burglary, Harris was charged with second-degree burglary of a dwelling and fourth-degree grand larceny — property greater than $1,000, both felonies.

In the burglary on Western Avenue in the village, Harris was charged with second-degree burglary of a dwelling and third-degree criminal mischief — property greater than $250, both felonies; and with petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Solving this case has been a combined effort, Laurenzo said, of multiple law-enforcement agencies and the Albany Crime Analysis Center.

Bethlehem Police are exploring similarities between two break-ins in the town — on Krumkill Road and Russell Road — and the crimes that Harris and Pietrzak are charged in, said spokesman Commander Adam Hornick on Friday.

The burglaries in Bethlehem occurred in the last week of December, during the day, and involved forced entry, according to Hornick.

“We don’t know at this point if there’s sufficient evidence to charge them, but there are a lot of similarities,” Hornick said, noting that Bethlehem continues to work jointly with the Colonie Police on these cases.

Updated on Jan. 26, 2018: Information from Curtis cox on the Guilderland arrest was added.

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