HALEYVILLE - Multiple break-ins and thefts targeting the Alabama Power substation on Highway 13 north are being solved, after law enforcement caught four men attempting to load copper wire into a rental truck after repeated incidents spanning several months.
So far, two of the four individuals have been arrested and charged, one is still at large and charges are pending against an involved juvenile, according to Haleyville Police.
Arrested are Roy Matthews, 64, of 9940 Jones Road, Northport, and Jacquanna Spencer, 21, of 752 MLK Road Aliceville, according to Lt. Tim Steien, investigator with the Haleyville Police Department.
Matthews faces charges for burglary third degree and theft of property second degree, according to Haleyville Police.
Spencer has been charged with two counts of burglary third degree and two counts of theft second degree, Haleyville Police noted.
Charges are pending in juvenile court against a 17-year-old juvenile from Northport, who was found walking on the railroad tracks with Matthews, after all four individuals fled upon law enforcement’s arrival, police said.
Spencer was found walking in the area of the former Catfish Haven restaurant at the overpass on Highway 129, police indicated.
Warrants have been obtained against a fourth individual from Northport, who was believed to have also been involved in the incidents, police noted.
Spencer was reportedly involved in at least two of the break-ins with Matthews involved in one and the juvenile involved in three.
All four of the individuals were reportedly involved in the last incident at the substation, where they had rented a U-Haul van in order to place cooper wiring being stolen from the facility, police confirmed.
On Nov. 5, a burglary and theft was reported at the substation, during which individuals made entry by cutting a hole in a chain-link fence and entering to take at least $1,500 worth of copper wiring.
Break-in and theft incidents at the substation date back to at least April, when a hole was cut in the fence in order to make entry, noted Police Chief Kyle Reogas.
The second incident was Oct. 24, when thieves hit both the Alabama Power substation and Haleyville Welding shop, located on Highway 13 across from the Razors Edge barber shop, the same night, Reogas noted.
At Haleyville Welding, a lock was cut off the door, allowing entry and thieves to take $3,100 worth of copper wire off a welder, according to Lt. Steien.
At the substation, thieves had stolen 400 pounds of copper wiring, after again cutting a hole measuring around six feet in height and two feet in width, in order to gain entry, police said.
The next incident at the substation occurred on Oct. 26, when thieves returned, cut a hole in a different part of the fence and entered to this time take 600 pounds of copper wire, police said.
Thieves returned to the substation yet again on Nov. 5, cutting another hole and taking 650 pounds of copper wire, police continued.
On Nov. 19, thieves used their regular format of entry and entered to take 500 pounds of copper wire, Steien added.
However, around 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 19, Alabama Power contacted the police department reporting subjects inside the fence area, noted Reogas.
Upon police response, the subjects fled on foot, leaving the U-haul truck at the scene, with Matthews and the juvenile found walking on the railroad tracks in the area of Fontaine later that morning, police noted.
Law Enforcement Give Tips in efforts of preventing break-ins
Break-ins and thefts seem to increase during the holiday season each year, so law enforcement are giving tips to hopefully prevent businesses or homes from being broken into.
As far as the Christmas season, citizens should be even more alert or concerned about people breaking into or stealing goods, Chief Reogas pointed out.
Many residents have Christmas trees with wrapped gifts under them and when suspects come up to doors and look in, they can see these gifts, which entices them to steal.
“There’s enough of (theft) without having to encourage them to do it,” Reogas said.
Some residents will be away from home during the Christmas holidays, sometimes traveling to other states to visit family members, the chief added.
“That is an invitation to a perpetrator to break into your home,” Reogas said.
Residents are urged to get a timing device to place on their lights, so they will come on during a certain time each night, the chief suggested.
“Lock your doors,” the chief urged. People 50 years ago, for example, would leave their homes, not having to worry about locking their doors, but times have changed, he added.
“This day and time, you have to lock your doors and secure your property that you have,” Reogas stressed.
Residents need to be cautious and protective not just when away from home but also when they are out shopping.
“You need to lock your cars,” Reogas stated. When out shopping, residents should never leave merchandise in plain view in their vehicles but rather keep them covered or out of sight in the trunk, the chief advised.
“If they look in (your vehicle) and see a lot of stuff in the back seat, they are going to try to get into the car and take it,” said Reogas.
“Now if you make it easy for them by not locking the car, then nothing is going to stop them,” he pointed out.
An individual one time went into a restaurant leaving tools in the bed of the truck outside, Reogas illustrated. Needless to say, when that person came out of the restaurant, those tools were gone.
“A lot of these people who are doing this, it’s because of a drug addiction,” Reogas noted. “It’s helping to satisfy a drug addiction, because they will take these items, either pawn them, sell them or trade for drugs.”
People should also know and keep up with the whereabouts of their purse, wallet, credit cards, he said.
“So many times, we have incidents where an individual used a debit card and left their checkbook, wallet, purse in a buggy or on a counter, and they get out in the parking lot and they happened to think about it,” Reogas noted. “They go back in, they are gone.
“You have to be conscious and alert and do what you can to prevent being a victim of a crime,” Reogas pointed out.
Residents should also not just look out for themselves but look out for their neighbor as well, the chief urged.
“If you see something that just don’t look right, then call the police,” Reogas urged. “Call and let us check it out.”
Residents should keep a close eye out for suspicious traffic, or traffic repeatedly showing up in a certain area or in the neighborhood, police warned.
“Be a neighbor and help each other,” Reogas said.
Winston County Sheriff’ Office Chief Deputy Bryan Kirkpatrick noted that residents should leave outside lights on and at least one vehicle parked at their residence when away from home.
“If you are planning a trip, stop your mail,” Kirkpatrick said.
“Record all of your serial numbers of all of your high priced items, your TVs, your stereos, your guns, your lap tops and put them in a safety deposit box or safe place,” Kirkpatrick mentioned.
Sheriff’s Investigator Jonathan Oliver encouraged residents who can afford it, to get a home security system.
For those who may not can afford it, they can go to a local outdoor or other store and purchase a game camera to set up at the entrances to their home.
“That way, if a home invasion does occur, that gives us a positive ID on suspects,” Oliver pointed out.
Kirkpatrick noted that such a game camera should be well hidden.
“A lot of things are cheap, inexpensive or cost nothing, like leaving lights on, buying a timer for your lights,” said Kirkpatrick.
He stressed that precautions should be taken to prevent break-ins and thefts not just during the holiday season but throughout the year.
“People are more susceptible to thefts right now because they have high dollar stuff and it’s Christmas,” Kirkpatrick said. “They are going to make off like a bandit if they hit.”
Kirkpatrick urged people to be even more on their guard to prevent such acts during the holidays.
“Thieves are lazy,” he said. “They are not going to work. They are going to steal somebody else’s gifts that you buy for your kids. Instead of them going out and getting a job, they are going to steal your gifts,” he said.
Oliver urged those who live on Smith Lake, many of whom are part time residents, need to invest in a system to secure their homes, since they are gone from home so many months out of the year.
“They never know, until they come back in the spring, that they have been broken into,” Kirkpatrick added.
“It may happen today, but we don’t know about it until the end of April,” Oliver pointed out.
“Be proactive instead of reactive,” Kirkpatrick added.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.