People in both Barry and Lawrence counties are being plagued by car thefts, and law enforcement officials are hunting for the men they believe are responsible.
The most recent in the series of thefts was a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am, stolen from the Butterfield area. The car was set on fire and left in a residential neighborhood in Monett.
Fire and police personnel responded to the report of the car blaze in the South Cedarbrook area in Monett 6:39 a.m. on Wednesday, where they found the vehicle completely engulfed. Law enforcement officials were able to retrieve owner information from the vehicle and contact the owner.
Law enforcement officials believe the car was stolen during the late night or early morning hours, because the owner was not aware the vehicle was missing.
Another incident occurred at 5:35 a.m. Wednesday when the owner of a 1999 GMC SUV called the Monett Police Department to report the vehicle had been stolen from his driveway on South Belaire Street. That vehicle was subsequently located in a field near Butterfield where it had also been set ablaze.
"We've been out all night," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly on Thursday. "It's difficult for us when we don't know what vehicle they're driving."
Epperly said officers were making traffic stops in areas where people were reporting suspicious activity.
"An abandoned house was also set on fire in the Butterfield area," Epperly continued. "We believe the same person is responsible."
"People are telling us that their cars are being stolen from their driveways," said Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder. "They are leaving their car doors unlocked, and many times the keys are left in the vehicle, making it easy for thieves to steal them."
Law enforcement officials are seeking a suspect in the case, Timothy Plopper, who reportedly drifts into and out of the area.
"Mr. Plopper is already wanted on several outstanding felony warrants," Schweder said.
"We are asking people not to leave their keys in their vehicles," Schweder said. "People need to lock their car doors and not leave anything of value in them."
"People also need to call in any suspicious activity," Epperly added. "Especially after dark."
To contact local law enforcement, call the Monett Police Department at 235-4241, the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department at 417-466-2131 or the Barry County Sheriff's Department at 417-847-6556.
The Barry-Lawrence Chapter of Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $1,000 for tips that lead to the arrest of those wanted for felony crimes.
Tips may be submitted by calling 354-TIPS (8477) or toll-free at 1-888-635-TIPS (8477). Tipsters may remain anonymous.
Tips may also be submitted through the Barry-Lawrence Crime Stoppers website at www.blcrimestoppers.com. Web-based tips are ineligible for a reward.