Break-ins continue to be a problem across Sampson County, an issue Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said can be attributed as much to drug use as it can be a slowly recovering economy.
“It all factors in,” Thornton said. “People steal for many reasons, but the bottom line is they are looking for things they can get rid of quick, something to make a fast buck. Many times the money is used to buy drugs.”
Just this week, area residents have filed reports at the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, noting property that has been stolen from their homes or businesses. Tools have been one big ticket item, sound equipment another.
One such incident, reported Monday, Sept. 10, showed that a Bluebird Lane home, near Newton Grove, was broken into and an assortment of items taken.
Among the property stolen was a $1,600 Tiger’s Eye ring; an assortment of valuable silver dollars; a radio, valued at $189, two saws, valued at over $300; a silver necklace, valued at $160; clothing, valued at $100; and a cell phone.
In another incident, reported on Sept. 11, owner of a club on Boykin Road reported that his business was broken into, with speakers, valued at $2,000, two turntables, valued at $600, a coin machine were taken.
While the rash of break-ins from earlier this summer has died down a bit, there are still far more than the sheriff wants to see occurring in Sampson, something he continues to say can be tapped down by vigilant neighbors looking out for one another.
In fact, Thornton has often referred to them as “nosy neighbors,” but in a good way, those who keep a lookout for suspicious activity in their community and report that activity to law enforcement.
“You know we were brought up not to be nosy, not to peep out the window and not to check to see who was driving up in someone’s yard, but I would encourage people to do just the opposite. Be nosy, be vigilant, and if you see something suspicious, let us know. It if turns out to be nothing, who cares. But, if it turns out to be something, we might be able to prevent it from happening,” said the sheriff.
With six deputies patrolling Sampson roads per shift and four massive zones to cover, Thornton said people in Sampson’s varying communities become like a second pair of eyes, helping to ensure that their own homes are safe as well as the homes of their friends and neighbors.
That is especially true in today’s society, where the six-deputy shift can often be cut by one or even two per shift when officers are on mental health commitment calls that take them out of the county, are sick or in court.
“Suddenly and often there are all kinds of variables that prevent us the luxury from actually having six deputies on the road at one time. That’s why it is so imperative for people to be diligent and watch out for one another.”
And while the sheriff pointed out that the early summer rash of break-ins had been halted thanks to the arrests of those responsible, it doesn’t mean it’s time for anyone to let their guard down.
“There’s another crew out there,” the sheriff cautioned.
And while he doesn’t want to be an alarmist, the sheriff said he did want people to be cautious and pragmatic.
“Looking out for your neighbor helps — it helps us, it helps the community and it helps you. It’s just part of being a good neighbor.”