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NIAGARA POLICE & COURTS

Garage fire damages 2 vehicles, farm tractor

ROYALTON -- Three vehicles were damaged in a garage fire at 4206 Royalton Center Road at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the Niagara County sheriff's office reports.

The homeowner told deputies he had been using a welding torch in the garage earlier in the day. A vehicle and a farm tractor in the garage were heavily damaged, while another vehicle parked outside also sustained damage. No dollar estimate was given.

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Suspended constable arrested on assault charges

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- A police constable is held pending a bail hearing after he was arrested Sunday and charged with two counts of assault, Niagara Regional Police report.

Constable Frank Dean Rudge, 47, was taken into custody after an investigation into a report by a Welland woman that a man had assaulted her on Friday. Rudge currently is suspended from duty on unrelated matters.

A veteran of 25 years on the force, he was charged in 2007 with breach of trust for allegedly providing inside information to members of the Niagara chapter of the Hells Angels.

In 2003, he was banned from carrying weapons for two years after he pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in a domestic dispute.

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Police investigating theft impound suspect's car

NIAGARA FALLS -- Police said that a woman may have been trying to purchase narcotics when she was robbed of $20 Sunday morning.

The incident occurred at 11:30 a.m. in the 600 block of 25th Street, where the victim said that a man tried to grab all her money as she offered him $5 for gas.

An acquaintance with the victim at the time told police they were attempting to purchase narcotics from the man when he suddenly became violent.

The man tore a $20 bill in half and then fled from the scene in his car, being chased by the victim in her vehicle. A police officer noticed the chase and tried to stop the fleeing suspect, but he jumped from his vehicle and eluded police on foot.

The victim told police that the man also choked and punched her prior to trying to steal her money. The suspect's car was impounded by police and towed from the scene.

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Wallet, GPS unit taken from car

NIAGARA FALLS -- A wallet containing credit cards and other personal effects was stolen from a car parked outside an Orleans Avenue home overnight Saturday, police said.

Also stolen were a global positioning system and a PSP game unit, police said. Loss was listed at $365.

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Two snowmobiles stolen from Coomer Road home

NEWFANE -- A pair of snowmobiles were reported stolen Sunday from an area behind a Coomer Road residence, Niagara County sheriff's deputies say.

The Arctic Cat machines were valued at $5,000 apiece and had been stored atop pallets about 500 feet behind the victim's home, near a ravine and tree line. The snowmobiles were last seen intact on Jan. 2.

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Hot tub stolen from cottage undergoing renovation

WILSON -- A whirlpool hot tub, still in its packing crate, was stolen recently from a cottage on Sunset Island, Niagara County sheriff's deputies report.

The cottage is undergoing some renovation while the owner is away, deputies said, and was entered sometime prior to Jan. 8. A deadbolt was drilled out on an outdoor shed, as well, but it was not immediately known whether anything was missing there, deputies said.

The hot tub was valued at $1,200. Investigators are probing whether a recent divorce action played any role in the incident.

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Basement flooded in vacant home

NIAGARA FALLS -- A vacant 19th Street home was found to have a badly flooded basement Saturday night, and police are checking whether another copper plumbing thief may be responsible.

The city has experienced a rash of copper pipe thefts, particularly from vacant buildings, in recent months, including one earlier in the weekend in which a basement was flooded due to the pipes being cut out.

A neighbor noticed water flooding from the 19th Street property Saturday evening, and found a door open with fresh footprints in the snow outside. He contacted police, who could not determine the status of the plumbing in the basement of the home due to the nearly ceiling-high water.

The property is owned by a California resident who could not be contacted, police said.

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Police seek suspect in house burglary

NIAGARA FALLS -- Police are checking whether a man who was going house-to-house earlier in the afternoon may have been responsible for a Saturday burglary at an 87th Street residence. A basement window was broken and someone rifled through a closet and jewelry box inside the home, police said, but nothing was reported missing. The incident occurred between 2:30 and 4 p.m.

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