In November 1981, expensive jewelry began to disappear from wealthy residences on Indianapolis’s Northside. Police soon realized that they had a serial burglar on their hands. By the time he was caught in March 1982, “The Northside Cat Burglar” had targeted as many as 88 homes in the area.
The crime spree that had begun in Indianapolis soon spread into southern Hamilton County, including the city of Carmel, Indiana. The burglar was after jewelry – rings, earrings, diamonds, gold, precious gems. Rarely were any other items stolen. In all, police later estimated that at least $1 million worth of jewelry was stolen.
Residents of burglarized neighborhoods worried the cat burglar would be back. Clues were scarce for police investigators. Matching shoe prints at a few houses linked the crime to a single man.
Similar methods of entry also led police to the conclusion that the burglaries were the work of a single crook. The prowler gained access to several homes by climbing a drain pipe to a second story window and was never seen by homeowners.
By March, Police had evidence tying at least 33 burglaries to the same unknown perpetrator, but no leads on his identity. Their break came on March 25, 1982, when a man in a green tracksuit was spotted trespassing on the estate of real-estate mogul, Melvin Simon. The man was detained by security and brought in for questioning by the police.
Under police questioning, Patrick Burns admitted to being the notorious Northside Cat Burglar. He claimed to have burglarized 88 homes in the Indianapolis area. Burns took police on a tour through victimized neighborhoods, pointing out each house he had targeted.
After obtaining a search warrant, police found an expensive pair of running shoes in Burns’ apartment that matched the footprints found at several crime scenes. A few missing jewels were also recovered, but most were never found.
Burns told investigators that he had sold the stolen jewels to pawn shops around the country. He led them to a Philadelphia pawn shop where he claimed to have sold most of the stolen jewelry. Police found few traces of the pilfered items, but speculated that most had been melted down to avoid detection. Pawn shop owners admitted to buying goods from Burns, but claimed that they didn’t know the goods were stolen.
Burns was tried and convicted of burglary in Hamilton County and Marion County courts. The owners of the Philadelphia pawn shop, a father and son, were arrested and tried in federal court on charges of transporting and selling stolen goods across state lines. Burns testified at their trial that the son knew the goods were stolen. The father was acquitted, but his son was found guilty.
The burglaries soon forgotten, life in Indianapolis returned to normal. However, the reign of the Northside Cat Burglar remains one of the more prolific crime sprees in Indianapolis history.