Thieves targeting farm shops

Published 9:02 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

At least three local farming operations have been targeted by thieves over the past few weeks, leaving the Sheriffs of Hertford and Northampton counties wondering if these crimes are related.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan reports that E.F. Stephenson & Son, Inc. – located on US 258 near Como, has been victimized twice.

The first breaking and entering occurred there earlier this month. It was hit again late last week.

The initial crime was discovered June 2 when an employee arrived for work that morning shortly before 7 a.m. HCSO Deputy John Parker arrived at the scene and was escorted by the employee to an equipment shop located at the rear of the property.

Parker’s investigation revealed that entry was gained by someone cutting the hasp that secured the padlock to a side door of the shop. Once inside, the perpetrator(s) used a golf cart, which was inside the shop, to load various items. Another lock was cut that secured the main sliding door from the inside of the shop. Parker’s report noted that a bolt cutter, which was inside the shop, was used to cut the second lock.

Once all the stolen items were placed on the golf cart, that vehicle was used to transport those items south along US 258 (according to the tire marks left behind).

“At some point, the stolen items were off-loaded from the golf cart and onto another vehicle, the make and model of which is unknown at this time,” Sheriff Vaughan said.

Parker’s report showed that the locks that were cut were recovered and tested for latent evidence. However, Parker and HCSO Sgt.Scott Cofield were unable to obtain any latent fingerprints from the crime scene. The two officers also searched, without success, the areas at or near the shop’s exterior for evidence.

Among the stolen items was a MIG welder, an impact wrench, sockets, an angle grinder, a chop saw, electric saws, a weed eater, a water hose and five extension cords.

E.F. Stephenson & Son was victimized again when it was discovered on June 18 that entry was made again into the same shop.

HCSO Deputy Leon Eason investigated the latest crime, discovering the same lock had been cut to the same side door of the shop, where entry was made.

Once inside, the person or persons responsible used a work cart to load the items – to include batteries, an impact wrench and sockets, a skill saw (engraved with the name: W.T. Riddick), a welder, and an extension cord.

Eason’s report indicated that the work cart, containing the stolen items, was moved to an area outside the shop, behind a grain silo, from where the items were loaded into a waiting vehicle.

An attempt to lift fingerprints inside the shop was unsuccessful.

A trio of businesses, including two farm shops, have been targeted by thieves in Northampton County since the second week of June.

Northampton Sheriff’s Captain Mitch Deloatch said Revelle Farms of Conway, and Davis Farm Supply of Conway have been broken into. In both cases, locks were cut to gain entry, and multiple farm equipment maintenance items were stolen.

This past weekend, Bryant Sandblasters of Woodland was victimized by a break-in. There, several items were stolen as well as diesel fuel.

No suspects have yet to be developed in any of these break-ins.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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