LITTLE HOCKING - Law enforcement officials throughout Washington County are looking into a large number of recent daytime breaking and entering incidents.
"In the last week-and-a-half there have been 10 incidents in the western part of the county," said Washington County Chief Deputy Mark Warden. "This is very unusual."
The majority of the breaking and enterings have taken place in Little Hocking, Belpre and the Cutler/Vincent area, although other communities in the county have experienced similar incidents, Warden said. All of the breaking and enterings have occurred between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
According to the sheriff's reports, on Friday two houses in Cutler less than four miles apart - one on Mayle Ridge Road and the other on Ohio 555 -- were broken into by damage to windows. Stolen during those incidents were a shotgun, iPad, jewelry boxes, cash and medications.
"These breaking and enterings just began within the last week," said Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz. "Our police department is working on several cases throughout the city and we are looking for unusual things going on."
Lorentz said before the house breaking and enterings, Belpre had experienced a rash of incidents in storage buildings in the city.
"There is an element out there that is just not happy unless they are causing trouble," he said.
A Little Hocking resident who asked to not be named said a friend of a friend of his was one of the victims and the thieves removed his entire gun case from the house.
"I know of two houses on Federal Road that have been hit and it's just really frightening to know this is going on," he said. "When friends have confronted these people, they make up excuses as to why they are there."
Excuses people have said were used include looking for animals to purchase and wanting to know if people would like their lawns mowed.
Although no one has been threatened or injured when confronting these individuals, Warden said he would prefer if people kept their distance.
"If you see anything unusual, do not approach anyone," Warden said. "I don't want anyone to get hurt."
What both Warden and Lorentz would like people to do is watch for out of the ordinary people and vehicles in their neighborhoods and write down information.
"We need descriptions of the people and their vehicles and, if at all possible, the license plate numbers," Warden said. "We find the hardest things for people in these situations is getting accurate descriptions and license plate numbers if they have memorized it rather than writing it down."
All of the incidents are under investigation with the sheriff's office, stating they are looking at physical evidence and trying to decide how many are linked.
"I'm going to be bold here and say that at least seven of them are definitely linked," said Warden.
Anyone with information is asked to contact a local law enforcement agency or the Washington County Sheriff's Office at (740) 376-7070 or the office's website at www.washingtoncountysheriff.org.