February 23, 2012

UPDATE: Islanders hear from sheriff’s office about recent break-ins


Hatteras Islanders concerned about recent break-ins in the villages filled the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club in Buxton last night to hear what the Dare County Sheriff’s Office is doing to stem the recent crime wave.

Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie had a message for the group.  He told islanders loud and clear that his office wants their help to solve the recent crimes – and any others.

Doughtie spoke first with assurances that Hatteras was getting plenty of attention from his office to find the culprits in a rash of break-ins at rental houses in Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo that targeted flat-screen TVs, three suspicious fires just this month at the same neighborhood in Waves, and a rash of vehicle break-ins last weekend in Buxton and Frisco.

Break-ins, especially at rental houses, are common in the off-season when whole neighborhoods are sometimes unoccupied.

This winter in the tri-villages began quieter and quickly picked up in January when there were about 40 break-ins reported.

The vehicle break-ins, Doughtie said, got rolling up the beach three or four months ago, and picked up this month on Hatteras.

The sheriff assured islanders that his office was in active pursuit and eager to catch the criminals.

He said he couldn’t share some details of the investigation, but that deputies were combating the tri-villages break-ins with extra patrols, cameras in strategic locations, and even special phones that call the sheriff’s office when motion is detected in an unoccupied house.

Lt. Doug Oberbeck, who is heading the investigation into the vehicle break-ins, said he was working 36 reports as of last evening.

“There are probably a whole lot more that have not been reported so far,” Doughtie added.

Oberbeck said the current rash of break-ins began on Friday, Feb. 17, when deputies responded to an alarm at Dare Building Supply on the Buxton Back Road. Officers were on the scene in three minutes and found no thieves.

However, shortly after that, reports started coming in of vehicle break-ins on the Back Road.  They continued Saturday night, also in Buxton, and Sunday night, mostly in Brigand’s Bay in Frisco.

Almost all of the vehicles, he said, were unlocked, and the thieves took mostly cash and electronic devices, including quite a few iPods.  The dollar value of the stolen merchandise was not “tremendous,” Oberbeck said.

He said deputies are collecting evidence from the crime scenes, including fingerprints, casts of footprints, and DNA samples.  However, he cautioned, that getting the evidence analyzed in state labs is a lengthy process.

“We are going to have to get very, very lucky,” to make arrests, Doughtie said.

However, both he and Oberbeck urged islanders to be aware of unusual activity or strange vehicles or people in their neighborhoods.

They said unusual activity should be reported to the Sheriff’s Office.  If you suspect a crime in progress or about to happen, you should call 911. To report other unusual occurrences or observations, you can call the communications office at 473-3444.

They also offered this advice:

  • Keep your vehicles locked and valuables out of sight.
  • Document the serial numbers on all electronics.
  • If your vehicle has been broken into, call deputies immediately.  Do not disturb the crime scene. Do not touch or move items strewn about, close doors, or make more footprints around the scene.
  • Be aware that recent rashes of break-ins have been happening on the coldest nights and in the stormiest weather when fewer people are likely to be out.
  • Pay attention to your pets.  If your dog barks during the night, it may be trying to tell you something.
  • Call in any information you have, no matter how insignificant, to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • If you see a suspicious vehicle or person in your neighborhood, snap a photo with your cell phone.

Finally, Doughtie noted that Dare County Crime Line has $150,000 in the bank, and “we’d like to give some of it away.”

Rewards are offered for information that leads to arrests in these break-ins.  You can call the Crime Line at 800-745-2746.

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