BUCKHANNON – With the southern part of Upshur County experiencing an increase in property thefts, local law enforcement agencies are providing information on the best ways for folks to leave crime tips.
Cpl. Tim Menendez with the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police said law enforcement has seen a rise in thefts taking place in the rural parts of the county; he’s urging people to report any suspicious activity.
“It’s important that people are vigilant and watching out for their neighbors because it really is an epidemic going on down in the south there with people who are sleeping all day and running around all night long committing crimes,” he said, “and it’s easy for them to get away with it in the middle of the night because there’s just not a lot of police presence at night unfortunately.”
There are a multitude of ways residents can leave tips for W.Va. state troopers, including visiting www.wvsp.gov to report a crime online.
“The best way to leave a tip would be to honestly call the detachment and talk with an actual trooper and get your information out there and to get it examined quickly,” Menendez said.
Menendez said residents who wish to remain anonymous can do so; however, he suggests that the caller identify her or himself.
“It’s easier to verify the validity of (the crime), but they can remain anonymous if they call 304-473-4200, and if there’s a trooper on station they would (get that trooper), but if we’re not on station and there’s no one in the building, it rings over into Elkins, and then they can take the message,” he explained.
Menendez said most of the tips and reports that are received are unverifiable because the tip is left by an anonymous person or the information provided is limited.
“Just because you call in and say ‘Hey, Joe Blow is making meth,’ we’ve got to have more than that to get in on Joe Blow, and if there’s someone that’s able to do that and put us on the right track, it’s best to leave your name and tell us what you can do for us,” he said.
Aside from phone and online, Menendez said a resident can stop in at the state police barracks and speak with a trooper directly to report suspicious activity.
While the state police receive tips from all over the county, Menendez said if a drug-related tip is supplied, it’s reported to the Mountain Lakes Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.
Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory said city residents can report tips by directly calling either the Buckhannon Police Department at 304-472-5723 or the Upshur County Comm Center at 304-472-9550.
“Anonymous tips can also be left at our shared tip line – shared between Buckhannon P.D., Upshur Sheriff’s Department and W.Va. State Police – at 304-473-1001 or on the ‘Contact Us’ tab on the Buckhannon P.D. website at www.buckhannonpolice.com,” he said.
Gregory said anonymity does not determine the outcome or the validity of a crime tip.
“However, anonymous tips must be independently validated through further investigation,” he added.
Gregory noted that reported crime tips are an essential element of any criminal investigation.
“In most cases, crimes are solved not because of some type of forensic breakthrough, but because someone has told us something that assists us with an investigation,” he said.
With the holiday season, many folks may be away from their homes visiting family and friends. Because of this, Gregory and Menendez said it’s crucial for homeowners to take necessary steps to prevent any burglaries or thefts while away.
Both Gregory and Menendez said it would be wise to have a friend, relative or neighbor check on your home periodically.
“The best tip for people who are not going to be here for the holidays is to obviously have someone they can count on and who is dependable to visit their house daily,” Menendez said.
If you plan on being away for a longer period, the two suggest stopping your mail and newspaper.
“For those who are able, security cameras are a reasonably affordable option – especially considering that most can be synced with Smartphones, which allows the homeowner to stay in contact with their home,” said Gregory.
Gregory noted some sort of lighting in and around the house, especially during dark periods of the day, is often a deterrent to errant behavior.
“Lights can either be motion-activated for exterior illumination or set on a timer for the interior,” he said.
Menendez said, “In this day and age, you really have to go above and beyond to protect your house and property when you’re gone.”
Gregory also advised that the BPD has a house check service where folks can fill out a form at the police station or sign up by calling.
Once completed, the form is placed on a bulletin board inside the police station where officers from each shift can view and conduct extra patrols accordingly.