Thieves target area vehicles

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Squatters becoming problematic

It’s supposed to be a happy time of year, but squatters, counterfeiters and thieves are making themselves a nuisance to both their victims and law enforcement officials tasked with holding them accountable.

At a recent meeting of the Barry-Lawrence County Chapter of Crime Stoppers, Purdy Police Chief Jackie Lowe noted several counterfeit currency cases reported in Barry County.

“We have $100 counterfeit bills showing up all over,” Lowe said. “We have two persons of interest identified, and Barry County is working several cases at this time.”

Lowe also reported a number of property thefts, most of which include trailers, ATVs and firearms.

“There have been reports of several stolen vehicles,” he said. “We’ve also had break-ins at several storage units and homes in the area.”

In Monett, squatters have become a bit problematic for those homes left vacant or under renovation.

“We have had a couple of instances where we’ve had people sheltering in vacant houses, camping in to get out of the cold,” said Jay Jastal, public safety officer and school resource officer with the Monett Police Department. “The best thing people can do is have their neighbors watch for and report any unusual activity around a house that is going to be empty. Squatters don’t care what kind of damage they do to a vacant house. If they get cold, they just start a fire inside, and then we have a house that’s burning down.”

Det. Dave Haskins, of Monett Police Department, reported several storage units burglarized over the past few weeks.

“We had six units reported at one location,” he said. “We also had an unsolicited individual who stopped by a home here and told the owner he could tell just by looking that there was roof damage. Luckily, the bank stopped payment on the check. We also had another individual, a woman in her 80s, who is now out several thousand dollars because someone convinced her they could get her a government grant to help her out.”

Donna Beckett, vice president and chief operating officer at Community National Bank in Monett, also spoke of scams taking place in the area.

“We have heard about mystery shoppers, where people send a check and you are supposed to keep so much and send the rest back; and car wraps, where you’re asked to use your car to advertise for someone. People are buying stuff on CraigsList and Facebook and those ads are fraud. Even [the website] Indeed has fraud on their site. People should ask their bank if they have questions about an offer. Don’t buy gift cards and read the numbers off the back to anyone. That money will be gone. I know that people want to believe, but 99 percent of the time, these are scams.”

Even law enforcement personnel are targeted by scammers.

“I got a call on my cell phone from someone wanting information for my disability claim,” Jastal said. “I haven’t filed.”

The next meeting of the Barry-Lawrence chapter of Crime Stoppers will be at noon on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Angus Branch Steakhouse in Monett.

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