Mother of 3 reports 'really upsetting' robbery as police warn of spike in west-end break-ins

Around 8 p.m. Monday night when Alex Merrick, a Toronto mother of three children, heard unknown footsteps climb the stairs and linger outside her three-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

Police say people should lock their doors to become 'harder targets'

Police in Toronto's west end are warning residents about an uptick in the number of break and enters. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Police in Toronto's west end are warning the community of a rise in the number of residential and commercial break-ins.

Det-Const. Robert Tatji of 11 Division, which includes communities such as High Park, Parkdale and The Junction, says the community has experienced 33 break-ins already this year.

"We are looking at commonalities between not just the geography but between the entry details about how some of these premises are being entered," Tajti said.

One of those 33 homes belongs to Alex Merrick, who was in her house with her three young children Monday evening when she heard unknown footsteps climb the stairs and linger outside her three-year-old daughter's bedroom.

Merrick was with Freya, her daughter, in her room, indulging in her pre-sleep snuggle time. Merrick's 10-month-old babies were alone in their room just down the hall. Her husband, Jon Hodd, had left the house 10 minutes earlier to take out the garbage, leaving the side-door unlocked.

Merrick, assuming the footsteps were her husband's, called out for him. But instead of his response, she heard the footsteps retreating back downstairs.

Merrick went to check for her husband, but when she saw that his car was still gone she attributed those sounds to the close proximity of her neighbours. Her husband, who came home a few minutes later, also didn't think anything of the noises.

'Overcome with adrenaline and shock'

It wasn't until Merrick went to retrieve her phone from the dresser in the hall, a metre and a half from Freya's room, that she realized it was missing. She searched the house and called the phone several times, but quickly came to the realization that a stranger had entered her home, climbed the stairs, stolen her phone and left.

"I was overcome with adrenaline and shock and just an overwhelming feeling of the house being violated," Merrick said in a phone interview with CBC Toronto. "I wasn't so much worried about the phone. The idea of someone being in our space, and being literally metres away from our three kids, was just really upsetting."

Merrick and her husband called police, who tracked her phone to a nearby bar. However they were unable to locate the phone or the intruder. Later police searched the house for fingerprints and took Merrick and Hodd's statements and are currently continuing their investigation.

Merrick's incident is now being investigated by 11 Division police as part of a nine per cent increase in break-ins from 2017.

Residents must make themselves 'harder targets,' police say

Det. Tatji says police hope to educate community members to be "harder targets."

"I'm saying this with an abundance of caution because I don't want to be alarmist, but there are offenders that are out there actively looking for properties to break into based on the fact that doors are unlocked," Tatji said.

Merrick, following the recommendations of police and neighbours, said she has been checking frequently to make sure her doors are locked.

"I didn't sleep last night ... at all," she told CBC Toronto.

"I'm here all day with two babies ... Now I'm going to be neurotically checking locks just to make sure that no one else is coming in," Merrick said.