SALEM — A Salem woman with a history of substance abuse is facing charges after she was caught on a home security camera allegedly attempting to break into at least nine cars in the Bridge Street area early Thursday. 

But when a Salem District Court judge offered to recommend her for the Middleton Jail's detox program, Melissa J. Cote wasn't interested, saying, "That just sucks." 

Cote, 32, of 14 Gardner St., pleaded not guilty to nine counts of attempted breaking and entering and a charge of possession of crack cocaine at her arraignment later Thursday morning. 

Salem Patrolman Kristina Monk was sent to the area of Howard Street, which is off Bridge Street, shortly before 4 a.m. after a 911 caller said someone had just tried the door of his car and he had been alerted by his Arlo home security camera system. He gave police a description of a person dressed in black, carrying a backpack and riding a bike.

Salem police have taken reports of approximately 35 break-ins or attempted break-ins to cars around the city since the beginning of the year. 

Monk and fellow Patrolman Keegan Stokes quickly found clues, in the form of footprints and bicycle-sized tire tracks in the newly-fallen snow, which eventually led them to a backyard on Bridge Street, where they found Cote hiding between a fence and a car. 

An "argumentative" Cote claimed she was there looking for her friend. 

But the patrolmen and Sgt. Gil Priddy had already found footprints on the driveways of four homes on Bridge Street, and a gold, high-end Gary Fisher mountain bike on the sidewalk. They went back to the address of the original caller, on Howard Street, who showed police video of a woman in a black "hoodie" and furry boots attempting to open two cars in his driveway. 

Police were able to find footprints leading to nine vehicles, ranging from a 1996 Toyota Tercel to a 2011 Mercedes, a 2016 BMW, and a 2019 Volkswagen, as well as a couple of Hondas, a Nissan, a Chevrolet and another Toyota.

During a pat-frisk at the police station, officers heard a "crinkling" sound and subsequently found a pipe and a bag of crack cocaine in Cote's buttocks, police said. They also found a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses in a case that they suspect might have been stolen. 

Prosecutor Erin McAndrews asked Judge Randy Chapman to set bail at $1,500, but to also revoke Cote's release in a case from last August, when she allegedly assaulted officers who were attempting to place her into protective custody after she and a man allegedly went into a building on Lafayette Street to use drugs. 

McAndrews pointed to a four-page criminal record and a history of missed court dates. 

Cote, who has in the past performed as a singer in area bars, was previously involved in a high-profile case, one which also involved video, in 2012, when she was caught on a cell phone camera punching a man on the MBTA in Boston, a video that quickly went "viral."  She later pleaded guilty to charges related to that case and was placed on probation with community service, according to court records. 

Her attorney, Edward McNaught, urged the judge not to detain Cote, suggesting a GPS and other conditions of release. 

McNaught stressed there was no violence involved in the current case, which, he said, appears to have been driven by what he said was a substance use disorder.

But McAndrews then noted that Cote had been excused from prior court hearings in the police assault case because she was said to be in treatment. 

Chapman revoked Cote's bail in last year's case, then set bail at $750 on the new charges. 

"She looks like a woman spiraling out of control," Chapman said. 

Cote will remain in custody at South Bay House of Correction pending a hearing in her case on Feb. 27.  

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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