by: Contributed photo Melvin Tillman

A man responsible for a rash of commercial burglaries in Rockwood this summer will spend nearly five years behind bars.

Melvin Lee Tillman, 56, of Gresham pleaded guilty Dec. 30, to three counts of second-degree burglary and no contest to a fourth count, said Deputy District Attorney Brenda Allen. He was indicted on 15 counts of second-degree burglary, 15 counts of criminal mischief and six counts of second- and third-degree theft following his arrest Sept. 10.

In accordance to the plea deal, Tillman is scheduled to be sentenced Monday, Jan. 9, to 52 months, or four years and four months, in prison. Counting time served following his arrest, he'll serve nearly five years.

Tillman reportedly committed 15 burglaries in about as many days in late August and early September, most of which took place in the west Gresham/Rockwood neighborhood.

At the time, he was on parole for commercial burglary. He was released from prison on Aug. 12 and the Rockwood break-ins began a short time later.

The crimes centered on 181st/182nd Avenue, Stark Street and Burnside, but extended as far east as the Civic Neighborhood. The burglaries tended to target businesses with glass doors, particularly dental offices.

Local businesses, some of which were already struggling to stay afloat in the dismal economy, spent hundreds to thousands of dollars repairing damage from the burglaries.

'The police took the time to keep this man under surveillance until they could catch him in the act in order to prosecute,' said Dina DiNucci, owner of Park Place Coffee and a longtime Rockwood activist, whose coffee shop was broken into twice last summer. 'The diligence has paid off, and he's off our streets.'

Detectives had a surveillance image of the suspect and stopped a man matching the suspect's description for a minor infraction. When the man provided a false address, investigators set up surveillance of local businesses for a week hoping to catch the man in the act.

On Friday, Sept. 9, detectives saw a man break a window of a local business but he didn't enter it. Police followed the man home to the 17900 block of Southeast Division Street, where they arrested him and recovered evidence of prior break-ins.

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