Local News

Stealing Property? New Crime Unit's Looking for You

Posted December 24, 2007 7:10 p.m. EST
Updated December 25, 2007 6:48 a.m. EST

— The number of people arrested for stealing property in Cumberland County has more than doubled in the past year.

That's because the sheriff's office has put together a new team to focus exclusively on property crimes, and they're getting some big-ticket items back to their rightful owners.

Willie James Herring, 18, marked the 365th arrest of the year for the Property Crimes Unit of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. He was wanted for breaking and entering, larceny and possession of stolen goods.

“We’ve broken a lot of theft rings,” Det. Bobby Jeffers said.

Jeffers is one of the 11 officers assigned to the unit. Among the most prized pieces of property among thieves has been copper.

“Stealing from churches, stealing from day cares, stealing from schools, stealing from wherever they could steal from so they could get the copper out of these units,” Jeffers said.

This year, Jeffers and his team lobbied for tougher penalties against salvage yards that fail to keep records of those who bring metals for sale.

“We’re now holding them responsible to where now, the first time, they’ll be charged with a Class I misdemeanor. After that, they’ll be charged with a Class I felony,” Jeffers said.

Thieves also go after steel - steel on wheels. Even with locked cars, some thieves are still able to get the goods.

“It’s very easy, especially is someone’s experienced at doing it. They can probably be in your vehicle and gone in less than 30 second,” said Det. Terry Isaacs.

But car bandits mostly look for careless car owners, those who leave the keys in ignition and doors unlocked, Isaacs said.

“[Thieves] are watching them constantly. That’s what they’re looking for, an easy mark,” he said.

In addition to cars, the Property Crimes Unit has recovered stolen backhoes, electronics from an airplane and home electronics. For some thieves, stealing is like an addiction.

The unit's supervisor, Sgt. Matt Hurley, said a single suspect was hit with 400 charges in a series of thefts.

“So, just arresting this one person solved, like, 60 crimes,” Hurley said.

Other arrests keep coming. The unit is on pace to make more than 400 arrests this year. Before its creation, the sheriff's office averaged about 100 yearly arrests for property thefts.