A teenager approached a Buffalo woman coming out of a Bailey Avenue deli Monday evening, offering to sell her some jewelry.
She looked at the baubles and quickly realized something was up.
There, among the loot, was her mother's bracelet.
It was the lucky break Northeast District police had been waiting for.
For the past six weeks, police had been on the hunt for a gang of teens and young men who were believed to have burglarized at least 60 homes in a small section of northeast Buffalo.
Police knew they were dealing with a band of serial burglars by their unusual M.O.
The thieves were strangely destructive in their ransacking, often deliberately pouring soda pop over the furniture.
"They were trashing the places," said Lt. John King of the Northeast District.
They believed the culprits were young because they not only stole jewelry and small TVs, but Play-Stations and other video game equipment.
The thieves always struck during the day or early evening, when the residents of the homes were at work.
The police also figured the suspects had to be local -- all of the burglaries were happening in an area bordered by Bailey Avenue on the west, the Kensington Expressway on the south, Kensington Avenue on the north and the city line on the east.
"It's a very concentrated area," King said.
For weeks, Chief Mark Antonio had dispatched extra patrol cars to the area, hoping to catch one of the thieves in the act.
"These guys had been clobbering us," Antonio said.
But that all changed Monday when the teenager made the mistake of trying to sell a stolen bracelet to its rightful owner's daughter.
As soon as she saw the bracelet, the woman called home and found out her fiance had just called 911 to report that someone had broken into her mother's house.
Police rushed to the deli, and the boy with the bracelet -- and several others with him -- took off running in all directions, King said.
Police Officer Anthony Marshall caught two suspects on Bailey.
As officers searched for the others, residents in the area pointed to a vacant apartment on Phyllis Avenue, where they had seen youngsters hiding out. More arrests were made there.
By late Monday, police had under arrest four teens: James Johnson, 16, of Copeswood Avenue; Julian Johnson, 17, of Copeswood; William Payne, 18, of Millicent Avenue; and a 14-year-old boy whose name was not released because of his age.
All four were charged with burglary, grand larceny, possession of stolen property and trespassing.
Tuesday night, four more arrests were made: Darrell Harge, also known as Darrell Glover, 20, of Langfield Drive; Christopher Dozier, 20, of Langfield Drive; Darnell Dozier, 17, of Oakmont Avenue; and Brian Scaife, 25, of Sun Street. All four were booked on second-degree attempted burglary charges.