After losing his granddad's sentimental watch to home burglars, Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth knows firsthand the sinking feeling that many area residents are experiencing following a string of burglaries with thieves taking nothing but jewelry.
At least nine homes have been hit in the past week, Booth said, as the thieves kick in the front door and take jewelry boxes and their contents, but nothing else.
Booth said the home burglaries have been on the west wide of the county, with seven of them occurring in one day and two on another. Similar incidents also have occurred in McLoud and Harrah, Booth said.
Most of the Pottawatomie County burglaries have been in the area of SH 102 and Waco Road, the sheriff said.
Based on the probe so far, Booth said it is believed the thieves knock on a front door and a back door, and when no one is home, they kick in the front door. Once inside, they go straight for a bedroom, find a jewelry box or jewelry chest, and then flee, taking nothing but the jewelry, Booth said.
"They're getting in and out pretty quick and leaving no evidence," he said. "They can be gone in one or two minutes."
Booth said with them taking only jewelry, it is easier to hide and there is less likelihood of the burglars being spotted since the crimes are happening so fast.
While the jewel thieves have made a quite a hit, Booth said they are dusting each location for fingerprints. Based on witness statements, Booth said they believe their suspect or suspects could be Hispanic males and witnesses also have reported seeing suspicious vehicles in the areas where these crimes have occurred.
Booth said in one case, it was red mini-van. In another, it was a smaller grey or silver SUV.
For Booth, who is part of the extra patrols being done to catch these thieves, the crime reminds him of an experience when his own home was burglarized. Booth said thieves took items including his granddad's watch, which he received not longer after his grandfather had died.
While the watch had little or no monetary value, it had sentimental value and was priceless to Booth, he said.
"It's something I can never replace," Booth said, adding he sympathizes with those residents who have lost their own special belongings to the jewel thieves.
"Whenever you see tears in their eyes and what they've lost…you know how they feel," Booth said.
With similar cases in McLoud and Harrah, Both said he feels if all are connected, then the thief or thieves are feeling brave and could hit the area again.
Page 2 of 2 - Booth said residents are encouraged to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. And while most of the affected homes are in rural areas, he said there are things people can do to protect their homes.
Booth said something as simple as a stationary deer cam, which hunters use to capture images at deer stands, can be hidden to take snapshots that could capture home intruders.
For rural areas, a gate to the property can help, but it isn't a guarantee to stop the thieves, he said.
"If they want in, they're going to get in," Booth said, although he suggests residents should make their homes less inviting and more difficult for the would-be burglars to make entry.
Probably one of the best defenses can be alert neighbors helping neighbors.
"Be aware of what's going on at your neighbor's house," Booth said. And if something looks suspicious, report it. "One would hope your neighbor would do the same for you."
Anyone with information about the cases can contact the sheriff's office, 273-1727.