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Police warn of crime spree in county

Police say thefts and burglaries are on the rise in Letcher County and are urging residents to take caution.

“In the past two weeks the sheriff ‘s department has received over 20 complaints of thefts and burglaries,” said Sgt. Brian Damron of the Letcher County Sheriff ‘s Department. “This is the worst I have seen it.”

Damron said at least 12 home burglaries have been reported in various parts of Letcher County recently, with the majority of the complaints coming from KY 7 North, Millstone, Thornton and KY 15.

“It’s fueled by drugs and the economy,” said Damron. “There is no other reason for this.”

He said thefts of prescription medications have also increased in the county lately.

“It’s been crazy,” said Damron.

One person has been arrested in connection with a theft and Damron said several more arrests will follow.

Damron said Ferriel Johnson, 51, of 510 Kentucky May Road, was arrested Oct. 6 and charged with receiving stolen property (less than $10,000) after a pump motor belonging to EQT valued at $6,000 was found at Johnson’s residence. Natural gas producer EQT recently reported that $30,000 worth of pump motors were missing.

Damron said someone stole several thousand dollars’ worth of copper wire from three towers on Pine Mountain owned by AT&T, Appalachian Wireless and Mega Communications. The tower owned by Mega is used for the county’s E- 911 system and also supports radio systems for local police and fire departments.

“We had radio problems this week but I can’t tell for sure if it was from that,” said Damron.

At least $3,000 worth of heavy equipment, including batteries and 55 gallon drums of oil, was recently reported stolen from Boyd Contracting in the Big Branch community of Linefork.

Damron said someone also attempted to steal heavy equipment from Sapphire Coal Company at KY 931 near the junction of KY 7 on Oct. 5. A foreman said a suspicious person fled the scene after he was spotted.

The sheriff ‘s department recovered a motorcycle Oct. 5 that had been reported stolen from a Colson residence. Damron said the bike’s engine was found at a residence and the frame was found at a strip mine in Love’s Branch at Deane. Damron said three arrests will be made in connection with that case.

“We’ve had an increased number of auto thefts including motorcycles and ATVs,” said Damron.

Damron advises residents to lock up all-terrain vehicles so they won’t be easily accessible to thieves.

“That’s one of the hot ticket items right now that they are taking,” said Damron. He also advises people to double check to make sure outbuildings are secure.

Damron said that writing down the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) or serial numbers of items will make them easier to identify and return to the owner in the event they are stolen.

Damron said vehicles have been broken into and car stereos stolen from both Dry Fork Auto Sales and Boggs Used Cars located at Millstone. Computer equipment was also reported stolen from both sales offices.

A leaf blower, soft drinks and food were stolen from Rockvine Church at Partridge. Letcher County Sheriff ‘s Deputy Michael Burton said he will make an arrest in connection with that case soon.

Damron said two purse snatchings were reported last week. One occurred at the Isom BP and the other occurred at the Neon BP. He said in both instances a man took a purse from a vehicle after a woman went into a gas station and left her purse in her vehicle with a window rolled down. Damron said video surveillance footage has been reviewed and arrests will be made in those cases.

Damron is calling on members of the public to report any information they may have in relation to the latest rash of thefts.

“The community is urged to report suspicious activities, suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons,” said Damron.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff ‘s department at 633- 2293 or state police at 606- 435-6069.

In addition to Damron and Burton, Deputy Jason Bates and Kentucky State Police Trooper Randy Surber are investigating the recent thefts and burglaries.

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