LH Police: Nothing unusual about recent burglaries

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By SEAN SHAPIRO

Nacona McDowell is still waiting for answers after a break-in at Hobo Junction last week.

Sometime between 8 p.m. on Nov. 1 and 7 a.m. the following morning someone broke in through the window near the bathroom of the restaurant at 3000 Ranch Road 1869.

“That’s a pretty tall window, so they had to be pretty tall,” said Ms. McDowell, who recently purchased the restaurant. “The police said there wasn’t any evidence of a stool or anything to get a boost up.”

Ms. McDowell said the cash register, cash box and food were taken. She had recently stocked the kitchen, which was pilfered by the thief or thieves.

“They took all of our meats,” she said. “They came in and they took a lot from the kitchen.”

According to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, the value of the missing items was $409, which included cash and frozen ground beef, sausage, chicken breasts and chicken fried steaks. Damage to the building was estimated at an additional $200.

Ms. McDowell said it took some time for sheriff’s detectives to get to the scene on Sunday, causing Hobo Junction to lose business on one of its busiest days of the week.

It was a frustrating time for Ms. McDowell, who had finalized the purchase of the restaurant just six days before the burlgary.

She said she has not received any updates yet from sheriff’s deputies.

Liberty Hill Police Chief Randy Williams said police officers were not on duty at the time the burglary was reported, thus sheriff’s officers were called to the scene.

Liberty Hill police are not on duty around the clock.

“There’s not a pressing need for 24-hour duty. It would be a nice service, but the City has to prioritize,” Chief Williams said.

Williams said the restaurant burglary is the latest in a series of building burglaries impacting Liberty Hill businesses.

“It’s all part of the holiday rush,” he said. “People are desperate for money to buy presents, and businesses have more stuff on display. Merchants have an increased inventory, better quality items before Christmas. They set out more things, make items more visible. It’s the same reason why burglaries of vehicles are more common this time of year.”

Williams said Liberty Hill would likely see another surge of burglaries after Christmas, but the activity is not out of line with years past.

“I don’t see anything unusual about these, there’s no big rise in crime,” he said.

“I believe the majority of these crimes are done by non-locals,” he said. “But it’s not because we’re a little town. It’s because there is more competition in the bigger cities — there are more crooks per block.”

Williams did offer some tips to businesses looking to decrease the risks of burglaries during the holiday season and any time of year.

He said security alarms help improve the response times of law enforcement. Rather than waiting until the next business day when an owner would discover a burglary, an alarm connected to Williamson County dispatch sends officers right away, increasing the possibility of apprehending the thief.

Williams also suggested that businesses utilize motion sensors or keep some indoor lights on at night so that patroling officers can detect movement. He discouraged covering windows with posters or keeping blinds closed, which effectively keep a burglar hidden once inside the building.

Signs declaring “no cash on premises” are also a detterent, he said.

Williams said when one local restaurant stopped keeping cash on hand after business hours and left the cash drawer open at night, break-ins stopped.

In addition to the Hobo Junction incident, Williams said in recent months, burglaries and attempted burglaries have been reported at Starlite Vapor, ACA Appliance and Dollar Store. Vehicles have been reported stolen from local auto sales lots as well, and some four-wheelers and dirt bikes have been reported missing from residences.

Williams said property owners can improve the chances that law enforcement can recover stolen merchandise by keeping track of serial numbers or other unique numbers or markings.

Williams said LHPD has five full-time officers and one part-time officer, which is not enough to accommodate a 24-hour department. Even now, it is a challenge to properly staff each shift when factoring in days off and holidays, and filling a shift when an officer is sick is difficult.

Williams requested an additional officer in his budget for fiscal 2014, but the position was not funded.

“We’re not doing the Andy Taylor thing where Barney checks the doors of every business in town,” Williams said, referencing “The Andy Griffith Show.” “We don’t have the time or people to do that.

“We have no special units that would allow us to increase patrols,” he said.

As more residential developments dot the landscape around Liberty Hill, Chief Williams said he is hopeful that development agreements with the City will include some funding that could be used for additional manpower that would be available to provide preventive patrolling in those neighborhoods and across the city.

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