Region 8 city reports dramatic increase in theft cases

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – The Paragould Police Department Wednesday urged residents to be careful securing personal belongings when out in public. This comes after a Region 8 News request to look at theft-related incidents since April. According to police, 173 theft-related reports have been issued since April 1st. Police said the information includes petty theft, robbery and forgery.

"Now we're seeing a lot of burglaries. Residential burglaries now, a few weeks back we had commercial burglaries where businesses were getting broken into," said Detective Mike Addison. "A lot of residential burglaries are coming in. I know we had three yesterday within a few hours."

Addison said criminals have been stealing for years. He said a recent arrest of a thief has helped slow the number of theft reports, but with summer months approaching, the crime is expected to spike again.

"We're seeing a whole lot more and we'll get hit pretty hard," said Addison.

"Electronics, money, anything to do with cash, change. A lot of people that I've arrested in the past, they're basically after the change to help pay bills, buy food," said Addison. "Radios, the car stereos that's removable, GPS systems, CDs, mp3 players, it's basically the same thing they steal every time."

Addison said farmers have reported theft of scrap metal and other equipment as well. According to the Greene County Sheriff's Office, scrap metal theft continues to be on the rise.

"Right now it's not just in one area. We're seeing break-ins on the north side, east side, central, and south, I mean it's all over," said Addison.

"It's gone on for about two years, three years. It really got back but just in the last couple of week it seems like it's picked up," said Gerald Gregory, owner of GG Electric. "Power tools are hundreds of dollars apiece and you take a couple of power tools, you could make 300 or 400 dollars real easy."

Addison said the county's methamphetamine problem has also helped fuel the increase in theft-related incidents.

"We'll find drug paraphernalia a lot of times. A lot of times the people that are doing the stealing are trading it and they're only getting enough to use," said Addison. "We've made theft arrests and gotten drugs off of people in the past."

Gregory said the average price of salvageable scrap metal is approximately three dollars a pound.

"The biggest thing they're after is either steel or copper. Copper more than steel, but the salvageable price has gone up, and as salvage prices go up, so does the demand," said Gregory. "We've got schedules that we have to meet there so besides the loss of time then we've lost dollars there in investment."

"I think the drug situation in Greene County is terrible, and it's hard to find people that would even work that's not involved in drugs," said Gregory. "I can't see it slowing down as long as the prices are up as they are. There's people out there that's not going to want to work that just going to want to make it on what they take."

Addison said he was still concerned that most theft victims do not lock their personal items away.

"It's best to take your things in the house. Don't leave your purses sitting in the seat of your car where people can see them because they will open your door and get them," said Addison.

©2010 KAIT All rights reserved.