Supervisor warns there may be a theft wave in county

Published 2:56 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011

District Five Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said on Monday at the supervisors’ meeting that residential homeowners should secure valuables and materials they want to keep on their property because, he said, he believes there is a rash of residential thefts going on in Pearl River County.

He said he did not have any hard facts but was basing his conjecture on the fact that he has received numerous calls concerning replacing air-conditioners that have been “ripped off” from vacant buildings, homes and rental properties. Smith owns an air-conditioning business.

“And I don’t think it’s just druggies trying to get money for a fix; I believe there are some desperate people out there who do not have a job and are looking for ways to generate some cash on which to survive,” said Smith.

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He said he had several residents who told him thieves have stolen items, including just junk metal and other items from their yard. He pointed to recent arrests of suspects by the sheriff’s department in connection with the attempted removal of air-conditioners from a rental property in Carriere.

In addition, Picayune police recently apprehended thieves trying to rip out the copper wiring from Mississippi Mall, which has been partially vacant because of a June 2009 fire.

“There is just an epidemic of theft going on right now, it seems to me. It is out of hand, and I just want residents to know they should take extra precautions to protect and secure their property,” he added.

State Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, speaking from Jackson where the State Legislature is in session, said that he also believes the “bad economy” was spurring people into criminal activity. As examples he mentioned those who are living near the limits of their income, or are homeless and those on the poverty borderline “It is a big problem,” he said from the House floor.

Formby, a Picayune Realtor, said he often sees houses stripped of their valuables.

The legislator added that he had investigated the laws and believes they were tough enough. He pointed out that our prison systems are full.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” he said. “Enforcement is the key, but our officers are stretched thin right now with what looks like a rise in petty criminal activity. And with our state and local budget problems, it makes it even more difficult to address the issue. We surely don’t have any money to throw at it.

“However, I will continue to explore this issue,” said Formby, “and see if there is anyway we can help our law enforcement personnel who are under so much pressure right now and have a full plate.

“I am well-aware of this problem. I have relatives who were just hit,” he said.

Sheriff David Allison, who was at the Monday supervisors’ meeting, said that anyone who sees suspicious activity around his or her home or neighborhood should contact the sheriff’s department immediately.