A recent rash of thefts, mostly targeting owners with heavy machinery, has struck the area. From swiping vehicle batteries to whole vehicles, recent thefts have prompted the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department to advise residents to take precautionary measures.
“We’ve got three in custody, one has been charged. We have charges on the other two but there may be another one out loose,” The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department said at the County Commission meeting on Thursday, July 19. The County Commission was also a target of the recent wave of thefts.
Scott Green, 32, and Melissa Berry, 34, were taken into custody and charged with the class D felony of stealing and the class D felony of property damage. In the probable cause statement, Green allegedly confessed to the sheriff’s department he was with Berry and they allegedly stole the batteries together.
According to the probable cause statements, Green and Berry said they took the batteries to be sold to Geno’s Recycling in Lebanon. The department contacted the recycling center to confirm they conducted business with Berry “When contacted Genos employees provided me the name of Melissa Berry who had sold the batteries 7/16/2018,” the report said.
Scott, in the report, said he remembered seeing the batteries in Berry’s vehicle, along with the computer wiring system that was cut from the batteries. After the batteries were allegedly stolen, the report said the two sold them to Geno’s Recycling in less than 24 hours.
If found guilty, Scott and Berry face one class D felony of stealing at least $750 dollars and a class E felony of property damage in the first degree. If convicted, the two may face up to seven years with an additional four years in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections. Berry also has an additional charge of passing bad checks, a class A misdemeanor. Green and Berry are currently being held on a $50,000 dollar bond each, with an additional $1000 dollars added for Berry.
Eastern District Commissioner Lynn Sharp said the cost to replace the battery stolen from a county vehicle comes out of the commission’s budget. “$185 is what it cost to replace the battery,” Sharp said. The stolen battery belonged to one of the county's tractors.
Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk said the commission must also repair cut wires that were attached to the battery. “They cut the wires and it cost to fix the wires too,” Newkirk said.
The commission was not the only target. The Pulaski County Sewer District, Laquey School District, a few trucks owned by the City of Waynesville and local construction companies were recent victims of thefts in the area. These thefts include a camper owned by a local resident and a construction trailer owned by Unlimited Construction in Crocker.
Patrick Shoemaker, owner of Unlimited Construction said the thieves stole all of his tools from his trailer, including a 30-gallon Kobalt air compressor, framing and roofing guns, a water pump and smaller items such as nails and washers.
Shoemaker said the thefts delayed the company’s current projects by a few days. “It did for the first couple days,” Shoemaker said. “And I broke down, got a credit card and bought brand new tools.”
Shoemaker said he has spent approximately $3500 dollars on tools so far. However, Shoemaker said he notices what is missing as he continues working. “As I’ve worked through the jobs the last couple days, I’ve noticed what was missing,” Shoemaker said, estimating it may take another $2000 dollars to replace more items.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department said the larger objects, like the camper theft, may not be related to the smaller items like batteries.
“Battery thefts are very small, they’re not very conscious when doing it. A camper theft is a little more planned and a little more thorough. They did it in broad daylight,” the department said. “Any major theft like that is usually isn’t related to the small theft of batteries.”
The battery thefts, according to the department, have mostly been happening in the late night, early morning hours.
The department said they believe they sell the smaller items for money. “It’s easy cash. They take them to a recycling center, get 30, 40 bucks for a big battery, 10 bucks for a small battery,” The department said. “The lead content inside of them is worth quite a bit.”
The department said five victims have filed reports of missing batteries belonging to vehicles. “There’s five, but they stole numerous batteries. These batteries they replace can be an upward of $300 dollars,” The Sheriff’s Department said.
The Sheriff’s Department said the thefts can delay project times and hurt budgets. “These gentlemen go in to go to work, all of them, and they can’t do their job,” The department said. “Because they come into work and someone came and stole from them, their day is delayed and behind. It’s just very frustrating for the working individual.”
The department said the average citizen can help the department by taking safety precautions or reporting suspicious activities.
“We’re letting all the farmers know, anyone with any kind of heavy equipment, to be aware of these thefts and to kind of monitor the activity of their vehicles…” The sheriff’s department said. “We can’t watch everywhere at the same time, so we need any help we can get here.”
The department has also taken more precautionary measures to help prevent these thefts like implementing more patrols. “We’ve been saturating the areas where we believe the activity may be going on,” the department said.
“We concentrate on those specific areas where there are farm equipment, asphalt equipment – anything left beside the road and easy access for thieves,” the department said.
The department said if anyone has any information to give the department, they should call the detective unit 573-774-7948 or to call dispatch at 573-774-6196.