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Hi-tech crime ring looked at Bowling Green

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:45 am

As town councilors considered a surveillance camera system for the town on Feb. 6, Bowling Green Police Chief Steve Hoskins told councilors that a high-tech crime ring may have checked out the town’s only jewelry store, Tinder’s Jewelers.

The police chief got a call last year that “there was a ring that was specializing in breaking into jewelry stores,” he said. “They were running up and down the east coast from Florida to New York. The FBI was checking on them. At one point, the FBI pinged one of the cell phones and it showed up in Bowling Green.” The Bowling Green Police Department and the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office were notified about the crime ring.

“I spent a whole week staking out Tinder’s, thinking they’ll come in the middle of the night,” the chief said. When breaking into a jewelry store, “they go through the roof and bring in a plasma cutter to cut open the safe. They’ll use a blanket to hide the light. They are professionals.” (A plasma cutter uses a gas that’s blown at a high speed out of a nozzle and an electrical arc is formed through the gas. This turns some of the gas into plasma, which is used to cut steel and other metals.)

“Luckily, nothing ever came of it,” Hoskins told the council. “My personal thought is that they looked at Tinder’s and said, ‘Yeah, nice little jewelry store. But it’s not big enough for what we have to go through to break in and steal stuff.’ ”

The surveillance cameras would cost $25,000 to $30,000 and would be on Main Street, but wouldn’t record activity in residential areas.

A canvassing of the town’s businesses indicated that business owners would like surveillance cameras, said Mark Bissoon, a member of the Bowling Green Town Council.

“In certain circumstances, they would be one of the best tools,” Hoskins said. “If somebody does a smash-and-grab at Tinder’s, we would have it on video.” He said he receives emails about fugitives. If other law enforcement agencies are looking for someone, “they send photos in emails and see if anyone recognizes them. We could print out a photo and send it out.”

Some cameras would record the license plates of vehicles running red lights. But that wouldn’t be sufficient for giving out tickets. Repeat offenders could get a warning, however.

Crime in Bowling Green has been mainly vandalism, such as broken flower pots and spray paint on back doors, which was several months ago.

By having cameras, “we might see something going on that we don’t know about,” said Town Manager Stephen Manster.

Hoskins said he would like to have cameras in the parking lots of Rite Aid and Food Lion.

No one would monitor the cameras, but if a crime or suspicious activity occurred, then town authorities would have a record of it.

Bissoon recalled that three adjacent businesses–the Pizza Hut, John’s Place restaurant and Shell gasoline station and convenience store–were targeted early on April 8, 2013 in Bowling Green. The businesses are located on East Broaddus Avenue.

The thief or thieves stole cash and property. The combined loss to the businesses, including damages, was estimated at $37,000, including cash from an ATM. The burglaries apparently occurred between 1 and 3 a.m.

Caroline County officials have said the burglary of the three businesses was the work of professionals who knew how to quickly get in and get out of a business. Thieves made surveillance cameras inoperable and cut burglar alarm wires. No one has been arrested.

Nothing was decided on the surveillance cameras.

In other activity, the council received a list of delinquent taxes from the Route 301 Tax District. Shaan LLC, Limbrick and Mark Giles owe the town a combined total of $19,432.

In addition, dozens of residents and businesses owe the town $9,121 in delinquent real estate taxes. The amounts owed range from $1.56 to $445, which is owed by a restaurant. One resident owes nearly $130 for each year back to 2005.

In other business, the town manager reported that Virginia Department of Historic Resources notified him that the historic marker honoring Bowling Green’s John Cephas has been finished and is ready for installation and dedication. It will be located at Main Street and West Broaddus Avenue. Cephas & Wiggins was an American acoustic blues duo, composed of guitarist Cephas and Phil Wiggins. Cephas died March 4, 2009 at age 78 of natural causes in his home in Woodford.

In other activity, the council re-appointed Patrick DeCrane and Robyn Sieg to the Bowling Green Arts Commission. The council re-appointed John Lane and Rea Williams to the Bowling Green Economic Development Authority.

Hoskins reported that a new registered sex offender had moved to Bowling Green, bringing the total to three in the town of 1,000 residents.