SALINEVILLE-Village police are filing felony receiving stolen property charges against two individuals they suspect are involved in a string of burglaries that began in August and continued this month.
Police Chief David Hilliard Jr. declined to name the suspects but said both are men between the ages of 19 and 24 who reside in the village.
Hilliard said, for now, the suspects are being charged with one count of receiving stolen property each, but more charges are likely to be filed.
He said it is likely charges will also be brought against two or three more individuals suspected of involvement in the burglaries. These suspects, he said, are also in the 19- to 24-year-old age bracket and reside in the village. Several of the suspects could face similar charges in bordering counties where they are suspected to have burglarized several properties.
There have been approximately 10 burglaries in the village since early August. Hilliard said it appeared the suspects would target various small neighborhoods around the village, sometimes breaking into as many as three or four houses at one time. The suspects would then wait a week or two before moving on to the next neighborhood and repeating the process, he said.
Hilliard noted that the suspects took advantage of his department's limited manpower and committed several of the burglaries in broad daylight when homeowners were at work.
Hilliard said the suspects often entered homes through an inconspicuous entrance, like the basement or through an entrance on the back side of homes rather than through the front door.
His department started its investigation by looking for stolen items at pawn shops in Jefferson, Carroll and Columbiana counties. He said officers were able to track down items stolen from a village residence at a pawn shop in Salem. This particular pawn shop requires those pawning or selling items to show photo identification. By checking the pawn shop's records, police were able to trace the stolen items back to one of the suspects.
Village police were also tipped off when one of the suspects was locked up in the county jail for several days and burglaries seemed to momentarily subside, only to pick back up again when the suspect was released.
"It was just too coincidental for us not to be having burglaries when they were locked up, and when they came back out it picked up again," said Hilliard.
Most of the suspects are drug dependent and sold the stolen property to feed their addictions, according to Hilliard.
"They're breaking into houses selling off whatever they can sell off, so they can go to their dealer and get their fix," Hilliard said, adding that many of the suspects have criminal records for drug and theft related offenses.
"We need a full time police department here because the drugs have come in so heavily, and since the village went to a part-time police department, the drugs have come in even more," said Hilliard.
The chief said patrolmen Stephen Thomas was particularly instrumental in investigating the burglaries and gathering information so charges could be filed. "He did great work by getting us information we needed."
Hilliard said although he is resigning as chief and several officers have recently resigned, it was important for him to show residents the village police department can still combat crime. "I want the citizens to know they are still getting the police protection they deserve."
Hilliard applauded the recently formed neighborhood watch group for its vigilance. "It's a positive thing for the community. The best thing people can do is keep their eyes open, if they see a suspicious vehicle or person by all means call us and let us know."