At least 10 unoccupied homes have been burglarized in rural areas of the county in recent weeks and there are probably more to be discovered. That from Custer County Deputy Sheriff Derrick Reifenrath who is investigating the break-ins.
“I feel fairly confident in saying there are other residences out there that probably have been broken into that we just don’t know about right now just because the people are gone and nobody’s happened across it,” said Reifenrath.
He says the break-ins have all occurred at summer homes, cabins and residences where the owners have been away for an extended period. Similar burglaries have also occurred in both Fall River and Pennington counties. While Reifenrath is not familiar with Fall River situation, he is working with investigators in Pennington County who are looking into similar break-ins there.
While he says the thefts have not resulted in high-dollar losses, there have been some cases where items of sentimental value were taken.
In an effort to discover new leads, the sheriff’s office recently posted a photo on its Facebook page captured from a security video brought in by an area resident. Reifenrath says that home was not burglarized ,but the homeowners did not know the person in the picture who appeared to be casing the home.
While he couldn’t say if the suspicious incident was connected to the rash of burglaries, Reifenrath said the home in question is in a similar type location as the homes that were broken into and the video was captured during the same timeframe as the other burglaries.
Reifenrath says, because of that coincidence, he would like to speak with the person in the security camera photo.
The sheriff’s office reserve program does offer a “House Watch” program that periodically checks on unoccupied homes and Reifenrath says there has been an uptick in interest in the program since the burglaries began.
He says that is one option for protecting unoccupied homes. Another is to ask a friend who lives in the area to check on the residence. He also says installing a security system would be a good idea as well.
In any case, Reifenrath asks homeowners not to leave any firearms in the house if they are going to be away for several weeks.
“Right now,” says Reifenrath, “about a third of the homes burglarized have been discovered by us driving around checking on them.”
For that reason, he urges homeowners who are currently out of the area to contact someone and ask them to check on it. He said the sheriff’s office will check on homes if asked, as well.
As for year-round residents, Reifenrath asks them to be vigilant and not hesitate to report suspicious activity at neighboring homes.
“If they wake up in the middle of the night and see headlights where they don’t normally see them or flashlights or an unusual light on at a neighbor’s, call us and we’ll check it out,” said Reifenrath. “Don’t feel like you’re bugging us.”