Break-ins plague Haywood County

By Kyle Perrotti | Oct 10, 2016
Photo by: Kyle Perrotti Joanne Martin stands in her restaurant, The Mountaineer, just outside Maggie Valley which was recently  broken into.

There has been a sharp rise in burglaries in Haywood County with multiple groups of culprits hitting multiple kinds of properties.

The majority of larcenies have either been on unlocked vehicles in residential areas or local businesses which thieves determine through casing to have either substantial cash or valuable merchandise.

And it’s not just Waynesville. The Sheriff’s Department reported 11 break-ins for the county over the course of September.

Even some of the outlying towns have seen a rise in property theft. For example, after only receiving two reports of breaking and entering in Clyde over the summer months, Police Chief Terry Troutman said that there were nine car break-ins last weekend, which he described as “extremely unusual.”

Additionally, in the month of September, there were multiple businesses broken into and two cars stolen in the usually quiet Maggie Valley. Joanne Martin’s restaurant, The Mountaineer, just outside Maggie Valley, was broken into in late August. Although the thieves didn’t steal any property, they broke multiple windows. In that case, the thieves struck at just the right time.

“Being on this main drag and having someone living with a dog upstairs, I’m usually not afraid,” Martin said. “They just happened to be gone that day.”

Waynesville Detective Bryan Reeves has been is in charge of the investigation of a burglary at Antique Antics in Waynesville, where between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of jewelry was stolen. He said that the thieves there are likely the same that have been hitting businesses around the area.

“All that’s been the same across the county,” Reeves said. “They’re wearing gloves and pantyhose over their heads.”

Reeves said that his department is working on the assumption that the people breaking into the businesses are professionals, between their mid-20s and early-30s, both male and female, who have likely served some jail time at some point. For instance, Reeves said when the thieves broke into the Quick Pantry on Old Asheville Highway and Howell Mill Road in August, they were into the cash register within seconds.

“I can tell you the business B&Es are the same three or four people,” he said. “Different cars, but the same clothes, same M.O. and everything.”

Based on the familiarity the thieves have displayed with the businesses they’ve broken into, officers believe the perpetrators are from the area.

“These are going to be locals who have been in and out of the stores before,” Reeves said.

Reeves wanted to make sure residents and businesses are aware that Waynesville Police Department offers security surveys, which entail Reeves or another officer analyzing a property and telling the owner the weakest and strongest points in their security system. Anyone can use this service for free by simply contacting the department. Reeves said this service will likely spare a business or residence the pain of being broken into.

“For example, the rock by your door may be convenient when you need to keep it open to bring boxes in and out,” Reeves said. “But it can also be used by a thief looking to break in.”

More recently, the department has shifted its focus from the business break-ins to the automobile thefts. There were about 50 car break-ins in the last month, and the majority of them involved unlocked vehicles.

“There aren’t a lot of broken windows in these car B&Es,” Reeves said. “They are mainly checking locks and just taking things like sun glasses, checks and jewelry.”

The focus on the car break-ins has paid off. On Oct. 4, authorities arrested Colby Jacobs and Joshua Ewart of Waynesville, both 19, and charged them with numerous larcenies, and Lt. Chris Chandler promises there are more charges to come.

Many who have had their property stolen by thieves wonder where it may have gone. Some people want to point to pawn shops, both local and out of state, as being probable places for stolen goods to be exchanged. Reeves said officers have been consistently checking the pawn shops for redistributed loot. He added that while the occasional stolen item turns up, he hasn’t run into any major discoveries yet.

“You can be as ethical and honest as you can,” Reeves said of the pawn shop owners, “but when you’re taking in that kind of property in, it’s inevitable.”

That doesn’t mean the department isn’t doing all it can to ensure these businesses are following proper practices. All local businesses must subscribe to Leads Online, a service provided by the Waynesville Police Department that provides daily electronic pawn and/or purchase transactions to law enforcement, to catch repeat offenders.

Although local law enforcement agencies are reining in the breaking and entering problem, Reeves said he wants to make sure individuals are still protecting themselves from break-ins. Along with completing the security surveys, Reeves recommends keeping cars and homes locked, keeping shrubs trimmed and leaving lights on overnight.

Additionally, Troutman provided his own words of wisdom for citizens:

“If you don’t recognize them, say something, and we’ll send someone to check it out.”