ROCKINGHAM — Theft is among the most common crimes plaguing Richmond County, police reports and court records show.
A collection of incident reports from the Rockingham Police Department and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office contain more than three dozen cases of larceny in the month of July alone.
Items stolen range from electronics — including cellphones, laptops and televisions — to tools and other equipment, medication, jewelry and even a rose bush. Thieves have also absconded with all-terrain vehicles, bicycles and lawnmowers.
Some incidents are the result of home, vehicle or business break-ins. Others are straight shoplifting.
One man whose car was broken into lost three cellphones, $100 in cash, several forms of identification — including a debit card, driver’s license and green card — as well as three season passes to Carowinds.
The Rockingham Walmart reported the theft of a T-shirt and pair of shoes in one incident and a $200 deep fryer in another.
There were at least eight reports of metal theft — including copper wiring — made to the sheriff’s office last month.
But it’s not just strangers pilfering from people and places.
The Kangaroo Express in Rockingham recently reported that an employee had stolen a carton of cigarettes, a case of Ice House beer and a bottle of Gain detergent.
Victims of break-ins have an added loss of value due to damage such as kicked-in doors and broken window screens.
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly said there are some steps residents can take to prevent becoming victims.
“If you make a purchase of a large item, take your box to the dump,” he said. “Don’t leave it on the side of the road, advertising what you purchased.”
Kelly said a large percentage of car break-ins occur when people leave their vehicles unlocked.
“Secure your vehicles,” he said, “whether you’re at home or at work.”
He added that valuables should not be left in plain sight.
Kelly also encourages residents to lock up tools and other equipment such as lawnmowers and weed trimmers. He said it’s easy for thieves to pull up and take off with them.
“Put ‘em up,” he said. “Don’t make it easy for them.”
If you go out of town, Kelly suggests having a trusted neighbor or police keep an eye on your property. He said that if requested, officers will periodically stop by to make sure your home is secure.
He also said residents should record the serial numbers of their valuables in order to ensure they can be identified if stolen and later recovered. Without the serial number, Kelly said it’s difficult to prove ownership.
“(Serial numbers are) very helpful to us in recovering your property,” Kelly said.
If an item is recovered in Rockingham, or another jurisdiction, having the serial number in a database will notify law enforcement that it has been stolen.
Kelly said that police can also enter a number that has been inscribed by the owner to help locate stolen items.
Dorothy Cain, who serves as a liaison between the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers, also stressed having serial numbers available.
“When their stuff gets gone and we don’t have the information we need, we can’t put it in the computer,” she said.
That’s why she developed a form for residents to list the make, model and serial numbers of televisions, vehicles, utility trailers, lawnmowers, weed trimmers and miscellaneous items.
Cain said those forms are available at the sheriff’s office.
“If your TV is stolen (and) you don’t have that serial number,” she asked, “how do you get that back even if we found it?”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.