‘Snowball’ Thefts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

Neighbors awoke to ‘snowball’ of thefts

By Billy Davis

They moved swiftly and silently, like a SEAL team on a night mission.

Sneaking from yard to yard, a team of four thieves struck cars, trucks and SUVs in driveways on Bruce, Marie, Pollard, Boyles and Booth streets.

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Early in the morning on June 30, a Monday, they targeted unlocked vehicles and in this sleepy middle-class neighborhood, they hit pay dirt. They took firearms, purses, wallets, iPods, digital cameras, credit cards, cash and pocket change from center consoles and glove compartments.

All totaled, they struck 16 vehicles.

“They moved fast. They knew what they were doing,” said Batesville police Detective George Williford, who easily followed the thieves’ shoe prints in the dew-covered grass Monday morning.

And who “they” are is still unknown. Batesville police have interviewed two eyewitnesses, including one person who chased the thieves down the street. The thieves were described as black males who drove a gray four-door Ford truck, most likely a Ford F150.

The thieves shrewdly targeted Green Acres, a safe, established neighborhood of brick homes. Bruce, Marie, Booth and Boyles streets roughly form a square block. Bruce intersects with Pollard, which stretches from Booth Street and makes a circle near the town’s city limits.

On Pollard Street, homeowner Jay Johnson said he saw the truck’s headlights turn into his driveway.

“When I stuck my head out the carport door, I saw a black male, who was about 300 pounds, opening my wife’s car door,” Johnson recalled. A second thief was prowling through the homeowner’s truck.

The thieves fled to the truck when Johnson turned on the carport light and yelled, “Hey!”

 The 300-pounder jumped into the driver’s seat, and Johnson, wearing only boxers and unarmed, chased the truck as it backed down the street, veered into a neighbor’s yard, then bounced back onto Pollard.

Johnson and police assume the thieves drove backwards so Johnson could not read the vehicle’s tag.

Back inside his home, Johnson phoned 911. A dispatcher’s log showed Johnson’s call came at 4:49 a.m.

Batesville police then swarmed the neighborhood, word began to spread of the thievery, and homeowners began searching their vehicles.

“When people started waking up, it just started snowballing on us,” said Williford.

Bruce Street resident Sara York said she saw “police cars everywhere” when she went outside to retrieve the morning newspaper.

York said the thieves stole only pocket change from her Toyota car but also struck her neighbors on both sides.

“We had to cancel Becky’s credit cards, and I think we did it in time,” said York’s neighbor, Ronald McMinn, after the thieves swiped his wife’s purse.

Williford said the second eyewitness saw the four suspects in the Ford truck but assumed they were in the neighborhood to pick up his neighbor, a long-haul truck driver.