While overall break-ins in Lincoln County steadily declined over the last three years, they spiked this spring and have continued to transpire at a high rate over the summer months, keeping Sheriff’s Office detectives on their toes.
In May, deputies investigated nearly 70 instances of breaking and entering, Lt. Tim Johnson, head of criminal investigations, told the Times-News last week.
The numbers plunged by more than half last month with 33 total incidents, and so far in July, the Sheriff’s Office said they’ve investigated 15 break-in cases, but several of them have remained open.
While May incidents occurred throughout the county, June mainly witnessed break-ins in the county’s central part, Baker district, and in both the Baker district and Adam district, in the west, this month, Johnson said.
He didn’t seem too surprised by the number of larceny files piling up on his desk recently.
“They (break-ins) always go up in the summer months,” he said.
He blamed both the county drug problem and the “state of the economy” for the summer season’s typical rash of break-ins.
“Most thefts always lead back to drugs,” Johnson said.
In addition, during the summer, school-aged children have extra time on their hands, and more residents take vacations, leaving empty homes and unlocked outbuildings, which Johnson said thieves have chiefly been targeting at night.
On the other hand, residential break-ins have been taking place between mid-morning and 5 p.m., when people are at work, the Sheriff’s Office said.
A majority of the items stolen in the incidents have included jewelry, tools and lawn equipment, particularly riding lawn mowers, Johnson said.
By this time last year, more than 250 break-ins had already occurred in the county, a number slightly smaller than the 308 deputies saw in 2010. From the start of 2012 through this month, 180 break-ins have taken place, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Johnson offered residents helpful hints to prevent them from being thieves’ future targets.
“We are reminding the citizens to lock up their items and also get serial numbers for them,” he said.
In addition, deputies have been amping up their presence, prowling around the county in both patrol and unmarked vehicles. Law enforcement has also been checking local metal dealers and pawnshops for various stolen items.
“Detective units are watching for anything suspicious,” Johnson said.
He also believed lack of friendliness among neighbors in today’s society has contributed to more theft.
“Neighbors used to look out for their neighbors,” he said. “We need more nosey neighbors…You never know, your house could be next. You would want your neighbor looking out for you.”
While arrests have been made in some of the cases, deputies continue to seek the public’s help in searching for thieves.
Anyone who has witnessed a break-in or any other suspicious activity in the area is asked to call 911, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at (704) 732-9050 or Crime Stoppers at (704) 736-8909. Tips may remain anonymous, and any tips leading to an arrest may receive a cash reward of up to $1,000.