City and county resident and business owners are nervous.
Numerous homeowners and businesses have been burglarized since the spring as the crimes have turned many residents on edge.
Many businesses struck by the anonymous thieves runs from the Reno Highway corridor to Maine Street. On the highway, Fallon Glass and Sign was robbed three times in six weeks, while Top Gun Car Wash was struck twice along with Sew N Vac, Crystal Cleaners and Tyler Lambert’s repair shop. They were all hit in the past several months.
Heck’s Meat on South Maine Street was also robbed, according to manager Shelby Seay.
Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter said nine burglaries and thefts have been reported since March. He also said his office made an arrest Friday stemming from three residential thefts in the Bell Aire Lane and Powerline Road area.
Not only have residents and businesses acted, but the sheriff’s office has responded to 14 hay bale thefts since January.
Angius Sir Allen Hearne, 28, was booked into jail on suspicion of the robberies and is being held on $24,420 bond. He is charged with two felony counts of burglary and three misdemeanors including two counts of petit larceny and possession of stolen property. Hearne will appear Thursday in Justice Court for a status hearing.
Trotter said another arrest independent of Hearne was made in one case, and one victim will not disclose the identity of a suspect to law enforcement.
“I think there are probably a couple different groups, potentially,” he added, “unless this guy (Hearne) is tied together and he was doing some extracurricular activity.”
Fallon Police Capt. Vern Ulrich, meanwhile, said the FPD has received six automobile burglary reports and four burglaries in non-commercial buildings since July 1.
Of those four, two have ended in arrests and one is in the process of securing a warrant for an arrest. Only one was a forced entry, while the others were the result of an unlocked home, an unlocked shed and a common day room.
Of the six auto crimes, Ulrich said five of the victims had unlocked doors or open windows.
No commercial burglaries or thefts, however, have been reported since July 1.
One report of a theft of numerous guns on North Taylor Street is perhaps connected to the other crimes recently reported.
“Are they the same burglars?” Ulrich asked rhetorically. “There is a pretty fair chance they are. I feel very comfortable saying that. Are they committing all of them? Probably not. There’s no proof of that, but probably not.
Businesses, residences targeted
Seay, meanwhile, opened her own automotive shop near Sandwinds on Taylor Place and after concluding the first day of business this month, was robbed of about $9,700 of equipment and damages. The culprits cut through the fence, broke a window and made off with the loot.
As a result, Seay installed upgraded windows and a state-of-the-art security system from CC Communications.
“You feel unsafe in this town right now,” she said. “Officers are doing the best they can. Without public knowledge, this will continue to happen. In six months, it’s gone downhill.”
Skip Carrica, who has owned Fallon Glass and Sign since 1981, said the recent break-ins are frustrating and businesses must take precautions to avoid suffering a robbery.
Carrica’s business was struck three times in six weeks. Cash was stolen from the register twice and the thieves have not returned since Caricca installed a security camera and placed the cash in an undisclosed location after closing.
“The public needs to know what the hell is going on,” she said. “A bunch of people are stealing us blind. It’s such an invasion of privacy.”
Kassi Venturacci fell victim on Aug. 13-14 when she returned home and discovered jewelry, a rifle and pistol were gone, she confirmed. Included in the loot were a diamond ring, a Safire necklace and a box of family heirlooms.
Then, to make matters worse, Venturacci’s horse trailer was struck again, although her case ended with the apprehension of Hearne.
Another case resulted in the theft of numerous guns, perhaps as many as 20. Ulrich, though, said it was reported several months ago and the investigation is ongoing.
Chatter online through social media, meanwhile, is growing and leading to numerous discussions about the robberies. Some are discussing starting a neighborhood watch program.
“I think law enforcement has been awesome, but unfortunately the thieves keep doing it,” Seay said. “They are thriving on people who are not protected.”
Frustration is growing among those affected, although they are quick to point out law enforcement has been working hard at solving the crimes. Carrica said residents must be proactive in defending their property.
Seay, meanwhile, said she believes the thieves are the same group knocking over businesses and homes. She said they wear gloves, stalk their victims then strike when the time is right.
In addition, Seay said no evidence (minus the Hearne arrest) of loot has been discovered in the city or county, which leads her to believe the culprits are moving the stolen property out of the area.
“It only takes one mistake to take these people down,” she said.
Hearne’s arrest is a silver lining in the recent string of thefts plaguing the area. Trotter said foot impressions left at the scene at Venturraci’s property and the scene of her neighbor’s residence led authorities to Hearne.
Trotter said deputies recovered a TV and “what was left” of Venturraci’s jewelry, but the weapons are still missing.
Although Hearne lived in the area of the homes he is accused of burglarizing, Trotter said investigators are currently unaware of any connection with the thefts on the Reno Highway.
The sheriff, though, did not rule out the possibility they are related, although further investigation is ongoing.
Both Trotter and Ulrich said numerous suspects and leads are in play for several of the thefts, but declined to disclose additional information about those cases.
“I would think this guy is not related to those other burglaries,” Trotter said. He would just go out and wander at night.”
Trotter said various techniques are being used, however, he did not go into to detail to prevent any at-large suspects of becoming aware of the details. In addition, he said deputies are patrolling the Reno Highway and visiting businesses after hours checking for locked doors, broken windows or anything out of the ordinary.
“There are some decent security systems that alert us,” Trotter said.
Ulrich echoed Trotter’s sentiments and said business owners can purchase security camera’s at a reasonable price. In addition, both men said to avoid posting vacation and travel plans before and during those trips.
“We don’t have crime like a lot of other cities,” Ulrich added. “But we still have to take protection for everyday, common things. Lock your doors, lock your windows and don’t leave valuables lying around.”
Trotter stressed for residents to take precautions such as locking vehicles and doors, even when residents are home. He recommended businesses to invest in security equipment as well.
In addition, Trotter said if residents notice anyone loitering outside a business after hours to call the sheriff’s office.
“We need the public’s help,” he said. “You’re not bothering us by calling. We thrive on that.”