Sampson County Sheriff’s Capt. Julian Carr looks over the daily reports Tuesday morning, noticing that there were five breaking and enterings in the county on Monday alone. The total take in the break-ins — just over $10,000. Damage to properties were half that.
It is a lot to take in, Carr acknowledges.
“Every year at this time, we do see an increase in these break-ins,” he said. “The majority of the time, as the holidays get closer, these break-in numbers rise. The majority of the time, the criminals are stealing things just so that they can sell those stolen items to get more drugs.”
On average, with a county as big as Sampson, the department gets around two to three break-ins a day, Carr noted. Within the last month, officials have seen a spike in those numbers. To be fair, some of those reports are incidents where nothing has been taken from the home, merely broken into and damaged.
“It is a big county,” reiterated Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton. “And we investigate every report to make sure we stay on top of the cases and the areas where the break-ins are occurring. It is not just economics that is driving these break-ins, a lot of it is because of drugs and criminals searching for drugs.”
For instance, while five reports came in Tuesday morning, four of them came specifically from the southern end of the county, where Carr said investigators already have a good idea what or who is driving that activity.
“We have focused on a group down there that we believe are responsible for a lot of the break-ins,” he said, without going into detail. “Normally, during this time, we do see an increase because of the holidays, but most are in a concentrated area. It is just a fact of locating them or actually catching them in the act and I can tell you, we are working diligently in trying to catch them.”
One indication on the rise in crime is the tremendous rise in residents applying for gun permits. At least 20 applications come in each week at the Sheriff’s Department, with 40 to 50 being approved on a weekly basis.
For concealed weapons, those application numbers fluctuate between five and 15 per week. Currently, there are 1,246 residents packing concealed weapons in the county.
“That is an indication right there,” said Thornton. “Those numbers are the highest we have had here. And they are getting the guns because people are concerned with protecting their family and their property. You pull up the CrimeWatch in your paper or even in The News and Observer, the crime happens everyday. It is frightening with the things going on these days; people have to protect themselves.”
That means dealing with a smarter criminal, whether it be dealing with Internet crimes, schemes or a simple breaking and entering, law enforcement have to be prepared for anything.
“They are smarter,” the sheriff adds. “They all wear gloves and double-clothing so if they are seen or stopped, they take off their top layer. Some blend in more and some you can’t find. That is why residents have to be smart and keep looking out for things that do not look right.”
“If you see a car parked on a back road, call us,” he said. “If you can’t get a tag number, do it and then call us. We have so many people that file a report that leave work in the morning and come home to find a door knocked in or something like that and they have no idea what happened. Nothing is stolen, it is just a busted door. You can imagine how it would feel to know that someone came into your home and went through your things … It is really a violation and no one wants that feeling.”
“Everybody has their habits,” interjects Thornton. “People go to work, go to church … Most people are pretty predictable.”
“You have to be mindful of things,” Carr added. “If you see things that are suspicious, let us know about it. You would be amazed at the reports that are filed where someone had seen something and then two or three days later tell their neighbor about it instead of calling us. By then, it is too late.”
Some tips the pros offer is to record serial numbers on big ticket items; hide any billfold, pocketbook or jewelry in automobiles; get motion senors for the outside of your home; do not share every detail of your visits or vacations on Facebook or Twitter; and always lock your doors and leave a light on when you leave.
“If I leave my house and I know I am not going to be back before 6 or 7 at night, I will leave my lights on or a television or radio on,” said Carr. “If someone is driving by and scanning the house, they see lights on or a T.V. on, the majority of the time, they are going to think someone is in there. If a criminal drives by and sees no lights on, they are going to know that no one is home and it is an open invitation. Leave something on, lock your doors, don’t leave your cars unlocked.”
Thornton said the best defense against a criminal is to always be aware of the things going on around you.
“If you see a car driving back and forth near your home, someone is checking it out. If it doesn’t look right, call us.”
While there has not been a rise in break-ins in and around the city of Clinton, officials say the biggest issue they have had of late is with identity theft.
“For us, the average break-ins have been normal in the city,” said Capt. Jay Tilley. “Right now, we are seeing a spike in identity theft. I am not sure the reason, it is just that one that has been slowly on the rise for us right now.”
Like Sampson County, Tilley said he expects a rise in break-ins after Thanksgiving.
“We recently had a little rash of break-ins about a month ago,” Tilley said. “We made one arrest and all of a sudden our problem slowed back down. So, right now, it is average what it is always been. But we are expecting those numbers to rise just after Thanksgiving. That is when we typically see a rise in vehicle break-ins.”
To report a crime call the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141 or the Clinton Police Department at 910-592-3105.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.