Tracy Morey with the bottle she found on her property recently. DON RICKERS

Police caution residents over home security

Some bottles — a smooth California Cabernet, or a crisp Niagara Riesling, for example – are appreciated by discerning palates in our local community. But plastic water bottles filled with a strange yellow fluid, discovered on your front porch, are an unwelcome harbinger of potential trouble.

Since mid-May, the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) has been investigating some 50 incidents in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Grimsby, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Thorold, Pelham, and Welland of plastic bottles, containing an unknown yellow fluid, being tossed onto residents’ properties.

Typically the incidents occur overnight. Many of the bottles are recovered in backyards. Police forensic examination has determined that the yellow fluid is “not volatile,” but authorities have suggested that residents minimize their contact with the bottles.

The worry is that nefarious individuals with intentions of robbery are using the bottles as a vetting technique to determine whether a homeowner is present at the house, or away on summer holidays.

Tracy and John Morey, of Rosewood Crescent in Pelham, discovered one of the bottles on their property a couple of weeks ago.

“There were at least a dozen homeowners on our street that discovered the bottles,” said Tracy. “This is bizarre. We thought it just happened to us, but then discovered on our neighbourhood email chain that we were not alone. I sent out a message telling residents to complete an incident report with the police, and to check their video surveillance cameras.”

One neighbour did have some grainy video of a car on the street at 1:30 AM that morning, and a man exiting the vehicle to approach homes, but the quality was too low to provide a car plate or description.

“Both my husband and a neighbour heard a noise at 1:30 AM, likely the sound of a water bottle landing on someone’s front porch or backyard patio,” said Tracy. “We initially thought that this must be a student prank, just kids thinking it would be funny. But now we’re hearing that this is a way that criminals scope a neighbourhood for break-ins.”

She acknowledges that the experience has put a bit of a scare into some of the residents.

“There seems to be no rhyme or reason for which properties got a bottle,” said Tracy. “We’ll have to see if this escalates. But until there’s damage done to property, or break-ins, it will likely be a pretty low priority for the police.”

NRPS Media Relations officer Constable Phil Gavin told the Voice that police have urged residents to have a trusted person keep an eye on their home when they are away for extended periods. They also advocate the use of motion-sensitive lighting and closed-circuit cameras, as well as ensuring that gates and doors are securely locked. Cars should be garaged, or if left in the driveway or on the street, securely locked.

Generally, the mysterious bottles do not appear to be associated with property damage or theft in the region.

Members of the public are advised to call the non-emergency NRPS number at 905-688-4111, extension 1022200 should they have photos, vehicle plate numbers, or information on possible perpetrators of the bottle scheme. Incident reports can be completed online at www.niagarapolice.ca/en/community/reportacrimeonline.aspx.

Crime Stoppers of Niagara can be reached online at www.crimestoppersniagara.ca, or by calling 1-800-222-8477.