Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 9, 2014

Barbara Neely always felt safe in her West Monroe Street home. She had a security system and assumed she was protected. Everything changed in December after a thief broke into her home.
Police investigators say the man who broke into the home — 38-year-old Arthur James Jackson III — remains in the Rowan County jail, charged with breaking into her home and half a dozen others.
The break-ins all occurred around the Christmas holiday, in December, at a time when some homeowners, like Neely, weren’t home.
Homeowners in those cases said jewelry, money, electronics and clothing were taken.
Authorities say Demetri Barber, 18, is responsible for residential break-ins that also occurred in late December on West Corriher, South Link and Ackert avenues, all near the Hefner V.A. Medical Center.
During those break-ins, police say, thieves took a variety of items that included food, electronics and jewelry. Officials don’t believe the two men were working together.
Salisbury Police say 475 breaking and entering cases were reported in 2013 and of those, 379 were residential. Countywide, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigated 488 residential burglaries, which includes attempted break-ins.
In recent weeks, authorities believe they’ve closed about 10 home break-in cases throughout the China Grove, Granite Quarry, Kannapolis, Rockwell, Gold Hill and Salisbury areas following the arrest of two teens.
Douglas Martin Patrick, 17, and Gage Allen Woodward, 18, are charged with breaking into homes and taking firearms, video game consoles, medications and jewelry. Investigators say in some cases the two pawned and sold the stolen items. Both teens remain in the county jail.
In the incidents for which the men are charged, law enforcement officials say entry was gained into the homes by breaking windows and doors. Authorities say there are a few entry points thieves target, but there are some common sense ways homeowners can protect themselves against would-be thieves besides owning a security system.
Neely had a security system in place at her home since 1980, and she upgraded it in 2009. She says the system did not help her because it was disarmed during her burglary when the telephone lines were cut. She went to visit her daughter in Charlotte on Dec. 25 and returned home Dec. 28. Police say Jackson gained entry into Neely’s home through a back window, which was locked.
“They broke the glass,” Neely said simply.
Neely believes the burglar who went into her home was in no hurry because so many items were taken.
Investigators believe Jackson was the sole perpetrator involved in the break-in at Neely’s home.
Taken from her home were two flat screen televisions, jewelry, collectible coins, keys to her Volvo and her son’s clothing and other items. She said they were valued at around $1,000.
Neely said her son, a military veteran who now works in Saudi Arabia, would regularly buy her jewelry and leave his clothes at her home.
While in Charlotte, she suddenly awoke one night and was worried about her car keys. Neely said she didn’t know why, but felt the Lord led her to change the locks on her car, which she did while in Charlotte.
Neely’s car keys were among the things law enforcement recovered inside Jackson’s home, officials said.
“I felt violated after it happened. I didn’t stay in the house until the new system was put in, which took a week,” Neely said.
She immediately began upgrading to a newer security system and didn’t return home until it was installed and ready.
She has now upgraded her security system again to include a disarm feature accessible via her cell phone. She also had bars placed on her back windows.
Neely has plans to also install a surveillance camera that she’ll be able to monitor by phone and a sensor that will alert to her phone if glass breaks.
She encourages other homeowners to take safeguards to protect themselves before someone breaks into their homes.
“I should’ve upgraded my system again. I didn’t look into that,” Neely admits.
Even though she had an alarm system, Neely still felt as though her home was a target, she says, because it was located in between two abandoned houses. She also felt the burglar knew she wasn’t home because her newspapers had begun to stack up on her lawn despite her request they be stopped while she was out of town.
“That was a dead give away,” she said.
She’d advise residents to ask a neighbor to collect newspapers, mail and check on the house if you’re going to be out of town.
Rhonda Madden’s West Corriher Avenue home was also broken into, and officials believe Barber did it.
Madden said she may have been a “victim” of a burglary, but it hasn’t made her change the way she lives.
“I don’t believe in having my life ruined by this instance. I don’t believe in living in fear,” she said.
Madden said the invasion of her home hasn’t ruined her life, but she did make one change — she replaced her back door with a steel door. She was able to provide police with serial numbers to her electronic items and was able to recover them. Her items were found at a local pawn shop. She advises other homeowners to keep track of items by writing down serial numbers and taking pictures and video of items.
Madden said photos and videos will help with filing insurance claims and is an easy way to prove ownership of items.
Neely’s and Madden’s suggestions are exactly what law enforcement officials say are ways homeowners can protect themselves.
Thieves often target people they believe are away at work, school or on vacation.
Salisbury Police Capt. Shelia Lingle said the majority of break-ins that were investigated by the department occurred during the daytime. Break-ins, she said, are most likely to occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In 2013, 61 percent of home burglaries occurred during the daytime and 40 percent of them happened at night.
The most common way thieves get into a home is by breaking windows and doors, but other entry points include side doors, garages, a roof and underneath the house.
Of the break-ins that occurred last year in the city, thieves gained access into the homes through back doors, windows and front doors.
There were 50 homes broken into during the day that burglars got in through a back door and 22 of them were at night.
Lingle said 51 thieves gained access to homes last year through a window during the day and 34 got in through a window at night.
Sheriff Kevin Auten said in the county, the most prevalent entry point of the burglaries that occurred in 2013 were through a back door.
“It’s a common method because it’s an opportunity to hid what they are doing,” he said.
The back part of a house is typically secluded and thieves go unnoticed, Auten said.
There are ways homeowners can protect themselves, Lingle said, most of which include being cognizant of the home and its surroundings.
She recommends locking all doors including basement and windows and especially placing a deadbolt with a key lock on the front and rear doors.
Lingle suggests briefly stopping mail and newspaper subscriptions.
She also believes motion lights are a good way to deter criminals from setting foot on the property and “they are relatively inexpensive to get,” Lingle said.
Sometimes homeowners place spare keys in an obvious place, Lingle suggests residents give their hiding places more thought.
She said hiding a key under a mat or potted plant on the front porch is too easy for criminals because that’s where some of them look first.
Lingle said the owner should also be choosy about who they leave their spare key with if they decide to ask a neighbor to hold onto it.
“Know who has your key and don’t let everyone have a copy of your key,” she said.
Even something as simple as keeping the garage door closed will deter thieves, Lingle said.
Homeowners can’t predict if someone is going to break into their home, but they can protect themselves if it does happen by writing down serial numbers from their items. The majority of items inside homes — DVDs, TVs, handguns, other electronics — have serial numbers that she says should be recorded.
Items that are taken and later recovered usually comes about because property owners, like Madden, are able to identify their stolen items via serial numbers, she said.
Auten said neighbors who pay attention to cars or people they’ve never seen in their neighborhood can deter criminals.
He urges residents to “pay attention to the car sitting on the roadside,” and to call law enforcement if they think someone with criminal intent is in their neighborhood.
“Write down the tag and a description of the car,” Auten said.
Auten also recommends if residents can they should drop by their home during the day to deter a would-be thief from thinking the home is empty at the same time every day. Even something as simple as driving a different vehicle to work could prevent a possible break-in, he said.
The veteran law enforcement officials both say simple tips such as trimming shrubbery near front windows, putting timers on lights and TVs, placing a security bar in the inside of a sliding glass door, which prevents the door from being opened even if the thief picks the lock.
He also encourages neighborhood watch programs and neighbors to look out for each other. Auten said in the western part of the county there’s a group of five or six community groups who although haven’t formed an official neighborhood watch do meet regularly.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.