Since 2009, Ted and Crystal Huss have had more than $12,000 in lawn and tool equipment stolen from one of their western Lincoln County residences and have heard about other similar incidents occurring at their neighbors’ homes in recent years. As a result, the couple, along with Crouse resident Milton Baker, former talk radio host of WLON’s morning show “Morning Magic with Milton Baker,” established a crime watch for the Crouse community the end of last year, with the second meeting taking place Monday night at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Crouse.
The group first met in October and were joined by several Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies.
“People need to know what’s going on,” Ted said. “We’re absolutely tired of the crime.”
The group is hoping to secure crime watch signs for the area in the near future.
“We’re shooting for six signs, but we’re going to take what we get,” Ted said.
The couple lost at least two lawnmowers, a pressure washer and some chainsaws to area thieves. They have since installed more than $400 in home security equipment.
“It’s worth it,” he told friends and neighbors at Monday’s meeting.
He encouraged the crowd of about 15 people, down from the 50 who turned out for the first watch meeting, to buy motion sensor technology for their homes, items that can be purchased without breaking the bank, a concern that Wilhelmina Yoder voiced.
The 84-year-old woman, who has lived in Crouse since she was age 2, was shocked that residents now have to be on such high alert.
“What makes it so different now?” she said of her community. “When I was growing up, we knew everybody in Crouse.”
Ted agreed with Yoder on the subject.
“When I was a kid, we’d go on vacation and leave the house unlocked,” he said.
Ted suggested a number of helpful tips for safeguarding one’s property including packing vehicles for vacation either in the dark or inside a garage and taking pictures of belongings, particularly capturing each item’s unique characteristics. Therefore, in the event something is stolen, it will be much easier for law enforcement officers and owners to identify it.
He even told the group that, if necessary, they should mark the item in a special way. For example, he quickly identified his stolen weed eater, which was recovered at a flea market, by locating the two scratch lines he had etched on it.
“Little details like that can bring an item back that you thought was gone,” he said.
Ted and Crystal have learned a variety of constructive safety measures by being members of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post. Every two months, the post meets with deputies and detectives to talk safety, they said.
Crystal believes increased crime in the area in recent months is due to the area’s high rate of jobless individuals.
“With more and more jobs being scarce, it’s (theft) going to keep happening,” she said.
Ted said he even caught two people stealing railroad ties the night before the group’s first meeting, and since adding the motion detectors to his home, he’s caught people on his property on two separate occasions.
“I think they were after my daughter’s bicycle,” he said.
The Crouse community crime watch is one of 43 community crime watches throughout Lincoln County, according to Larry Seagle, the Sheriff’s Office public information officer. Individuals interested in starting a crime watch in a county neighborhood can contact the Sheriff’s Office at (704) 732-9050.
Lincolnton Police Chief Rodney Jordan told the Times-News there are roughly a dozen of the same units within city limits. However, only a few of the listed watches are meeting regularly, he noted.
“Once the program is established and a ‘block captain’ is named from the neighborhood, we can post new signs advertising … they are in a community watch location,” Jordan said.
Anyone interested in establishing a neighborhood crime watch in Lincolnton can contact Community Services Lieutenant Matt Painter.
The Husses are also trying to establish a second crime watch in Crouse for the Rhodes Rhyne community, where the couple currently lives.
“Crouse is a tight-knit community, and that’s how we want to keep it,” Ted said.
Crystal had similar thoughts on the issue.
“We’re cleaning it (the community) up a little at a time,” she said.
Crouse residents who have questions about the group or are interested in joining the local watch can contact Ted Huss at (704) 732-3105.
The next meeting is set for May 6.