After a months-long lull in break-ins across Sampson County, what started as a slow shift back to criminal activity has blossomed into a full-blown problem once again. So much so that Sheriff Jimmy Thornton is echoing earlier comments he’s made calling for residents to be vigilant in reporting their own comings and goings and, at the same time, watching out for their neighbor.
“I don’t really know exactly what you can attribute this to,” the sheriff said about the sudden spike in break-ins in various areas of Sampson. “It’s disturbing, but you look at trends and you figure that eventually we will see these kind of spikes.”
One of those trends is the release of prisoners, both from local and state jails. “You get that. People are constantly getting out of jail, and with all that coming and going, you’re going to see those kind of spikes. I mean, as much as you hope when these folks get out they’ll be rehabilitated, the truth is, most aren’t. And they go right back to the criminal activity that put them there to start with. It’s frustrating, but it’s true,” the sheriff acknowledged.
Another likely reason for the spike can be recent arrests in communities where break-ins had been running high a few months back. Thornton said his department had targeted those areas for increased patrols, leading to the arrests. Between the patrols and the attention given to the break-ins and the eventual taking of suspects into custody, many would-be criminals had been laying low.
That is, until now.
“Those arrests sent a pretty strong message for a while,” the sheriff said. “But it looks like we’re back to the spike again.”
Thornton also pointed to economic conditions that have always been a contributing factor in many break-ins, whether thieves were stealing to pawn items for the cash or selling or trading them for drugs.
“The economy hasn’t gotten any better, and I don’t expect to see it get much better any time soon. And, of course, that’s always a factor in any spike in crime.”
With the return to criminal activity comes the sheriff’s continued plea for citizens to take heed, use caution and be nosey, something he repeatedly stresses because of his strong belief that it takes everyone working together to stop crime.
“People are going to have to be attuned, vigilant, they really are. They are going to have to let people know when they are going somewhere and when they are coming home, and they are going to have to be willing to watch our for their neighbor in the same situation.
“You just can’t take anything for granted. You can’t assume that everything will be OK; you’ve got to be vigilant. Believe me, criminals will be.”
All it takes, the sheriff said, is looking at crime reports filed over the weekend to know that citizens across Sampson have become victims of break-ins.
“I’m just saying to be vigilant so you don’t wind up being the next victim,” the sheriff stressed.
Over the weekend, six break-ins were reported. Some involved only a criminal gaining entry into a residence while others included hundreds of dollars in property stolen.
Those reported break-ins included:
• Barbara Boykin, Pheasant Lane, Clinton, who reported a break-in at her home on Sunday. Nothing was taken;
• Ronald Draughon, Timonthy Road, Dunn, who reported that someone broke into his residence and took a black powder pistol valued at $400;
• Yudy Funes, of West Darden Road, Clinton, who reported that someone pried open the door to his home and took two flat screen TVs valued at $1,100, a Kodak camera valued at $120; a Blackberry phone valued at $200; a laptop valued at $400; and jewelry valued at $200;
• Jace Myers, Dawson Road, Dunn, who reported that someone pried open a door to his residence and took a bow valued at $1,000; an arrow valeud at $30; a bow sight valeud at $120; a bow trigger valued at $100; a dozen arrows valued at $180 and three rifles valued at $1,070;
• Susan Surles, of Charlotte, who reported that someone broke into a residence she owns on Boykin Bridge Road and took a wood stove valued at $4,000; a refrigerator valued at $400; a washer/dryer valued at $400; an end table valued at $200; a double bed valued at $400; a hope chest valued at $400; and an oven valued at $600;
• Philistine Johnson, John Mary Lane, Rose Hill, who reported that someone broke into her home and took a flat screen TV valued at $500; a Dell screen valued at $300 and a keyboard valued at $75.
“We urge anyone with information about any of these crimes to give us a call. We want people to be a nosey neighbor. We want people looking out for one another and calling us anytime they see something they think is out of the ordinary. It’s the only way we can stop these folks,” the sheriff said.