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Theft Ring Believed to be Responsible For String of Burglaries in Big Lake

Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

BIG LAKE - 13 reported burglaries in one month for the small town of Big Lake is a bit unusual.

"It used to be where you could go to sleep and not thinking about locking your door," Perla Encinas, who lives in the city, said.

But things have changed; thieves made seven hits in two days in late May, and almost double that throughout the month.  

"That kind of activity in that short period of time just kinda leads us to believe that we have some folks in here with some kind of theft ring or something along those lines," Reagan County Sheriff, Jeff Garner, said.

Businesses, shops and man camps throughout the city were all broken into. That includes trailers at Industrial Park, family-owned businesses on Highway 137 and Russek and even a restaurant right on Second.
 
Investigators said it was, "more or less crimes of opportunity." The bandits made off with lots of oilfield equipment and other devices like washing machines, TV's and laptops and occasionally cash. They estimate there was more than $15,000 in stolen property.

"These are people that have spent some time watching and know what's going on. Because they're not wanting to run into people. They're wanting to run in, steal what they want and get out," Garner said.

The crooks didn't miss a beat. Garner says the items taken weren't tagged, making it even harder to trace if they are found. We're told the people largely affected were the small business owners. According to Garner, they often have their machinery out in the open, or all in one small area, and without unique identifiers or labels.

Encinas is a secretary at F&M Welding, a company the burglars decided to skip. But she sympathized with owners across the street who hadn't been so lucky.

"For somebody to just take off with it, then what do they have left to work with?" Encinas said. 

Investigators haven't received tips from the public, leading them to believe the thieves came in from out of town. Encinas said she wouldn't be surprised if that were the case because it would give new and perhaps temporary residents the opportunity to observe, then strike and leave.

Officials did receive a surveillance tape identifying a grey Chevy or gray four-door with running boards.  

"The assumption was made that that is the vehicle that was being used to transport their stolen property. Due to the angles, we weren't able to get a license plate, we weren't able to get a good look at the people in the vehicle. Quite honestly, that vehicle description matches probably 40 percent of the vehicles running around here right now," he said. Garner said that it was better than nothing and could give him and his overnight deputies something to go off of.

"We're just going to have to work backwards," he said.

If anyone has any information, call the Sheriff's office at 325-884-2424. 
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