Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks is using road signs to help solve a series of home break-ins that have occurred in southeast Pitt County.
Elks is deploying about 20 signs with contact information for Pitt-Greenville Crime Stoppers in an area extending from Reedy Branch Road to Emma Cannon Road and N.C. 102, where there have been a series of home break-ins since Christmas.
The latest incident was discovered Saturday morning at a home in the 5900 block of Reedy Branch Road. The home's occupant had attended a gospel show between 7 and 9 p.m. on Friday and didn't initially notice any problems when she returned home, Elks said. When she started her day on Saturday, Elks said she noticed her home safe had been shifted. She also discovered part of a chain lock was on her living room floor, some a distance from the front door, he said. Money was missing from the home.
Elks said the break-in was the sixth to have occurred in the area since Christmas. All locations were single-story, ranch-style homes that were surrounded by woods and were a distance from the highway. The first incidents occurred either Sunday or Wednesday, apparently when the residents were at church.
“It's very interesting that someone knows the habits of residents in this community,” Elks said.
All the houses were locked. The thief typically entered through a bathroom window or a rear door using an item they found at the location to pry open the entry point, he said.
The thief has targeted safes and fire boxes. The individual is careful not to disturb other items in the homes and to return things to their proper location, Elks said. In one instance, the homeowner didn't realize anything had been taken from his safe until he heard about a neighbor's break-in and checked his belongings, the sheriff said.
“We want to encourage everyone to be on the look out for suspicious activity,” Elks said.
It was community involvement that helped deputies make an arrest in connection with a series of break-ins in the Belvoir area earlier this year, Elks said.
However, there are many people who don't know about the county's CrimeStoppers program, which allows citizens to anonymously report information about criminal activity and collect a reward if it leads to an arrest.
“The sheriff has been wanting to think outside the box and come up with new ideas and one of them was to use signage in different areas of the county where things are going on,” said Lt. Kip Gaskins, CrimeStoppers coordinator and supervisor of the sheriff's community impact division.
The signs urge “See a Crime Don't Waste Time Call CrimeStoppers” and gives the organization's telephone number, 758-7777.
Elks also is encouraging residents to contact Gaskins' office to request a free security survey. Deputies will inspect a home and offer advice on improving security. People can call 830-4141 or 902-2800 to make an appointment.
Elks said a reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person carrying out the break-ins in southeast Pitt County