The question is why did it take almost four years to identify Bernard Welch?
Silver trading reached worldwide highs in the late '70s and early '80s.
In the mid-1970s the Hunt Brothers of Texas began to corner the silver market. The price of 100% pure, refined silver rose from $5 an ounce in 1975 to $49 an ounce in 1980. This caused entrepreneurs to open shops that bought the 92.5% sterling silver, as well as gold jewelry, with few questions asked.
Burglary is a profit crime. Things stolen have to be sold. If you can’t sell it, you don’t steal it. Before the Hunt Brothers, there was little market for silver flatware and tea services. Once the price of silver began to rise and buyers appeared in vacant storefronts, the race was on. Every burglar with an IQ higher than 12 began stealing silver when he could find it. The choice was easy: $25 for a used color TV or $1,000 for a pillowcase full of silver. Police departments across the country became inundated with a tsunami of reported silver thefts.
Bernard Welch stole silver and jewelry. His crimes blended in with the criminal pack. His MO went unnoticed amid the hundreds of similar cases that came in weekly. He also stopped work in the spring and did not return until fall. This totally flummoxed the detectives at first. Career criminals don’t take half a year off, unless they die or go to jail.
Then we began to notice little things like cut telephone wires outside and missing antiques, oriental carpets, fur coats, old weapons, and collectibles. I was the self-appointed antique expert in Montgomery County, Maryland; therefore, these cases were brought to my attention.
Being the “antique guy," I kept tabs on the antique shoplifters and burglars. It takes special knowledge to steal antiques. One has to know what to steal and where to sell it. There weren’t that many criminals with this knowledge, and I knew most of them in Montgomery County. As residential antique thefts mounted, I made it a point to know the rest in the Washington area. It took a couple of years for me to eliminate them all until only Bernard Welch was left.
By 1979, I knew who the Ghost Burglar was, but not where he was.