Harford sheriff's investigators link petty thefts to heroin epidemic

Deputies say thefts are up 23% this year
Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-28 19:05:18-05

Petty thefts are up and Harford County investigators say they think they know why -- they're linking it to heroin. 

There's a street sign next to the sheriff's office with growing numbers and rising consequences. 

"We're down in every crime category: from murder, rape, robbery, and burglary. We're all down except one category, which is the petty theft," Major William Davis said. 

He says as the heroin epidemic continues to rise, thefts will as well. 

"We believe that the main factor behind that is because of the heroin addiction and the people stealing it to supply their habit," Davis said. 
In the last year, the sheriff's office tracked 23 percent more petty thefts than in 2015. 
"Many times when we're arresting the suspects who are committing those crimes, they are also heroin addicts who are trying to get money and steal things so they can supply their habit,"  Davis explained. 

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In Anne Arundel County, police in Annapolis told us the city's property crime numbers were down as the county's heroin addiction numbers skyrocket. 
"In general, we haven't seen a big increase in property crime with heroin use. In fact, this year we're about 4 percent lower than we were this time last year with property crimes," Amy Miguez, the public information officer, for the Annapolis Police Department, said in an interview in December. 
Still she said she wasn't surprised by the statistic. 
Harford investigators are working with big box retailers and pawn shops to crack down on the thefts. 
"They're the one ones who are victims most of the time of these thefts and they're stealing large ticket items out of their stores," Davis said. 
That's why they've come up with A.L.E.R.T. -- Area Law Enforcement and Retailers Together -- an initiative to spot recurring thieves. 
"We're catching a lot that way and we're focusing our efforts on petty crimes so that we can help reduce this problem," Davis said. 
It's a problem, Davis says is preventable if you stay alert and remain vigilant. 
"Don't feed the bears. Don't allow yourself to become a victim," he said. 
The sheriff's office is warning people to not keep valuables in plain sight. If you see any suspicious in your area, call your local authorities. 

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