Rash of break-ins attributed to need for drug moneyPublished 7:54pm Thursday, March 1, 2012
There were a rash of breaking and enterings across Berrien County in February.
From Buchanan and Niles townships to Hagar Township and Union Pier, the sheriff’s department has been busy responding to break-ins all year.
The sheriff’s department handled 257 breaking and entering complaints in 2011, up from 247 in 2010.
And 2012 is off to a quick start, according to Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit.
“Over the past several months, there have been many B&E’s all over the county. Items taken are those that are easy to get to, like TVs,” he told Berrien County commissioners Thursday.
Sheriff Paul Bailey blames the break-ins on the county’s growing drug problem.
“People who are breaking into places are usually on heroine, cocaine or meth, and they are breaking in to feed their drug problem,” Bailey said.
Two of the break-ins took place the early morning hours of Feb. 2 when thieves broke into the Red Bud Liquor Store in Buchanan Township and the AME General Store in Niles Township.
Howard Baker, 22, of Galien, and Jacob Walkden, 19, of Three Oaks, have been arrested in connection with the thefts.
Deputies responded to a retail fraud complaint Feb. 23 at the Niles Township Walmart that turned out to be an armed robbery.
A suspect attempted to push a cart of unpaid merchandise out the doors.
Three loss prevention associates attempted to stop the suspect when he said he had a gun and reached for his waistband. He fled into the parking lot and was picked up by an accomplice in a burgundy SUV. The case is under investigation.
A busy township
Niles Township is always busy for officers, according to Bailey. Currently, seven officers are assigned to the township, which is one of the largest communities in the county in both population and size.
In comparison, Benton Township, which has a very similar population, has 30 officers.