Neighbors on Edge after Five Burglaries in Charleston Neighborhood

By: Olivia Fecteau Email
By: Olivia Fecteau Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A home security system is usually enough to give homeowners peace of mind, but for people living in the South Hills neighborhood of Charleston, not even an alarm is enough these days.

"It makes you think twice about when you leave, even with all your doors and windows secure, lights on, security system on," David Phillips, who lives in South Hills, said. "That still doesn't seem to have prevented a pretty sharp burglar from getting away with it."

Charleston Police say they are investigating five separate burglaries that took place within the last month. They believe they are dealing with "sophisticated" burglars. In at least one case, the burglars tripped an alarm system on purpose, hiding nearby until police came and left. Then they went inside and stole jewelry, silver and electronics.

"It heightens our awareness that there may be someone who is an experienced burglar that knows how to trip an alarm and to wait until the response is over," Lt. Steve Cooper, the chief of detectives at the Charleston Police Department, said.

Cooper said they think most of the burglaries are related, but the stolen items are all different.

"Basically runs the gamut," Cooper said. "There's some similarities there -- jewelry, silver, electronic items -- so anything that they can make a quick buck on."

Phillips said even with all the security measures he takes to protect himself, he doesn't know if it's enough.

"You do it all, but then you still wonder, like what else do you need to do to prevent it if you can get around all that and still get in?" Phillips said.

Another neighbor, Will Lorensen, said his family is taking extra steps for security after these burglaries.

"As soon as it happened, we were careful to lock our doors and be a little more careful to secure the house a little better," Lorensen said.

Phillips said he will probably try to be more vigilant and get his neighbors involved.

"Let them know when you're out of town and hopefully they do the same, so that you can kind of keep an eye on their place and if something looks suspicious," Phillips said. "That's probably more of a help than anything else is -- just people keeping an eye on each other."

Police recommend some additional ways to protect your house.

"Neighbors keep an eye on other people's places when they're on vacation. Have the post office hold your mail until you come back so it doesn't appear that mail is piling up," Cooper said. "Don't leave messages on social media that you're leaving town."

He added, "You don't know who's friends with who on your friends list, and all it takes is one wrong person to see that you're out of town for a week."

Cooper noted that experienced burglars used to be more common, with individuals who broke into houses and stole for a career. Now, he said, the burglars are more likely drug addicts.

"Most of our burglaries are now committed by people who are addicted to prescription pills, methamphetamine, heroin, things of that nature," Cooper said. "So they're not quite as sophisticated. This is a little unusual."

A locksmith in the neighborhood Thursday said he was changing the locks on one of the homes that had been burglarized. A neighbor down the block said that unlike many in his neighborhood, he didn't lock his doors and did not plan to start even after the break-ins.

Detectives say they believe they will be able to make an arrest soon in connection with these burglaries. They say there may also have been more burglaries in the neighborhood that have not been reported.

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