Members of the Barry-Lawrence Chapter of Crime Stoppers are joining forces with ham radio operators in Barry and Lawrence counties to help keep an eye out for the thieves who have been stealing and burning vehicles from both counties.
During their January meeting, Crime Stoppers board members approved offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage resulting from these recent crime sprees.
"We're getting reports from citizens who say they will shoot them if they get the chance," said Purdy Police Chief Jackie Lowe.
So far, two individuals have been arrested in connection with the case, which involves the theft of eight vehicles from Lawrence County, 12 from the Monett area, six or seven from Barry County and at least one from Purdy.
"We can't attribute all of the thefts to the same people, even though the MO (mode of operation) is similar," said DeLay. "At this time, we don't know that the crimes were all committed by the same person or persons."
Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly and Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay have tentitively planned to bring together representatives from several agencies currently investigating the rash of vehicle thefts and compare information.
Katherine Parker, assistant district emergency coordinator for both Barry and Lawrence county ham radio organizations, said that general warnings could be issued to operators across both counties to be aware of the situation and report suspicious activities occurring in their neighborhoods.
"We can issue public service announcements," Parker said. "Once the information is out there in scanner-land, it will be easy to call back to local law enforcement with information."
Chairman John Strong also recommended organizing citizen patrols for parts of both counties, with suspicious activity reported back to local law enforcement agencies.
In other news, Lowe reported a Purdy citizen receiving threats of physical harm from perpetrators of a Jamaican scam.
"The Federal Trade Commission has a task force dedicated solely to the Jamaican scam," Lowe said. "It's everywhere."
These scams are only slightly different from the ones perpetrated by Nigerian criminals, who route their activities from Nigeria into Europe and then into the United States.
"It's difficult to trace a phone call overseas," Lowe said. "These types of crimes are very difficult to prosecute."
Law enforcement officials also discussed illegal drug activity that is taking place in the bi-county area. Schweder said there is an individual suspected of distributing marijuana pills in the area, and investigators are trying to locate more information on the matter.
Schweder also reported six tips had come through the Crime Stoppers tip line since November.
"That number is up from previous months," Schweder said.
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.