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Thursday, May 5, 2016

County residents determined to be ...Victims no more

Monday, January 23, 2006

Some local citizens, all recent victims of crime, have decided to fight back and do something about it.

Tate Wyndham placed an ad in The Brazil Times after thieves invaded garages and barns in his rural neighborhood, seeking information about the robberies.

"I couldn't believe it, but they carried the vehicles right out of my garage and we never heard a thing," Wyndham said. "I wanted to do something more to help find what was stolen. This was the best way I could think of to help in the investigation."

He tried to place flyers around the area with the same information but was turned away by local businesses that do not have community bulletin boards.

"It is really discouraging the way we don't help each other anymore," he said.

Two other neighbors also experienced break ins.

Living a quarter a mile north of Wyndham, Art Jensen Jr. had a portable generator stolen from his garage.

"They were pretty bold and had to be very experienced," Jensen said of the skilled crooks who didn't even break the door or locks to get inside his garage. "We've never had any problems, and we always felt safe. But after something like this, you feel like you're not quite as secure as you once were because its always on your mind."

Jensen hadn't considered placing an ad in the paper but was thinking of writing a letter to the editor to warn the public and remind them of safety tips he's recently employed around his own home.

The other neighbor, a quarter mile south of Wyndham's home, at first reported a motorbike had been taken from his barn, but then found it hidden in the woods beside his home.

Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton thinks victims placing ads in the paper is an excellent way to get information about stolen items out to the public and can help the investigation.

He also told The Brazil Times that these types of break-ins are drug-related most of the time.

"(Addicts) are looking for something to exchange for quick cash for the next fix," he said. "Rising Methamphetamine abuse is causing an increase in these types of crimes in rural areas of the county."

Rural areas are not the only targets for thieves.

With eight break-ins to their vehicles, Jesse and,Meladean Belleu's Brazil neighborhood has experienced what seems to be an increasing crime wave in the past two years. The recent robbery of a guest's car at their home just a week ago prompted the Belleus to write a letter to the editor of The Brazil Times, which appears in today's paper.

With something happening at their home almost every Saturday, Meladean Belleu fears the time thieves become brave enough to enter the house and it is making her a nervous wreck. But it's not bad enough to stop her moral duty to take a stand and inform the community that the police need help in catching criminals.

"We look at terrorism as being in another country, not in our own backyards," she told The Brazil Times.

"But that is exactly what these people are doing. They are inhibiting us from living our lives freely. They're holding us and law enforcement hostage because they're out there looking for another fix and we can't live our lives in peace because of it.

"I know our police are doing the best they can, but it's not their responsibility to care of us. We have to take care of and look out for each other."

Meladean also wrote a letter to the editor that is published on page 4 today.

Jerry Johnson, who owns a building a few blocks away from the Belleus, had items stolen by a set of crafty criminals that fooled the neighbors into thinking they had permission to be the property.

"A few days before the robbery a couple of guys asked my neighbor who owned the property and if I would be willing to let them clear away some of the stuff stored there," Johnson told The Brazil Times last Friday "When they came back, no one bothered to ask anything, thinking they had permission to load up."

It took a couple of hours and two trips for the crooks to load up several large aluminum garage doors and various car parts from the property.

"What they took might look like junk to some people because of what it was, but with salvage prices up right now they got away with a profitable load," he said. "Takes someone pretty doggone brave, or maybe stupid, to do something like that. I guess when desperate people can get pretty bold. It's just so darn frustrating that it was broad daylight and nobody did anything to stop it from happening."

Brazil City Police Chief Mark Loudermilk understands victims' frustration and said it would be nice to have more officers, but with budgets the way they are that's not going to happen.

"There are almost 50 miles of streets to patrol and at any given time there are approximately 10,000 people within the Brazil city limits. It is very rare for an officer on patrol to catch a criminal in the act of a crime," he said. "We need the public to be our eyes and ears if they see suspicious activity so we can respond."

Law enforcement officials have not noticed an increase in crime in the area, but Methamphetamine and drug-related cases of burglary are taking up an excessive amount of officers' time.

"There are people out there 365 days a year walking around the streets and parking lots trying to find unlocked vehicles and buildings," he said. "It happens almost nightly."

Ways to protect yourself

Law enforcement officials offer some advice for local residents to protect themselves:

-Mark your property with specific identification information and keep track of the serial numbers of valuable items to make tracking a stolen item easier.

"Always make a report to authorities after a burglary and present a list of items with ID information," Loudermilk said. "If you never report it, you will not get it back."

-Lock all buildings and vehicles and remove valuables from plain site whether inside your home or your car.

-Do not leave keys in car or leave a running vehicle unattended.

"Don't make yourself an easy target," he said. "If a car is locked with no visible valuables inside they will move on."

Sheriff Heaton and Chief Loudermilk agree the public needs to be more actively involved in protecting themselves against crime, but they both are realists when it comes to the fact that crime is happening in our neighborhoods.

"If you become a victim of a crime, we'll be there to handle it," Loudermilk said. "It would be great to have enough officers to have one on every street, but it still wouldn't stop a determined thief."



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