By Doris Elmore
The Village of Hammond has been experiencing a number of break-ins recently. Pursuant to a telephone conversation with Piatt County Investigator Thomas Apperson, the following information was shared with this reporter. Apperson said that on Saturday morning, August 15, the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office received multiple reports from Hammond residents in regard to items being stolen from their vehicles. In most of the cases of items being taken from vehicles, most were reported to be from unlocked vehicles, except for one in which a brick was used to break a window to gain entry. Another reported their vehicle was locked but the suspect(s) were able to gain entry, but there was no damage found to the vehicle.
The Piatt County Sheriff’s Office received nine official police reports from this incident. One report includes items being taken from a vehicle, but the victim also reported that an unlocked detached shed on the same property was entered and a few items were taken from the shed. One report from a victim stated that the back door to her apartment was kicked in; however, nothing was found missing from the apartment. The same victim also reported that her vehicle was entered but nothing was found missing from inside the vehicle either. One report was of only a vehicle being entered and items taken. The remaining four reports were in regard to vehicles being entered but nothing found to be missing.
According to Investigator Apperson, these crimes are believed to have occurred during the late hours of Friday, August 14 and the early morning hours of Saturday, August 15. One resident told the sheriff’s department that at approximately 4:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, August 15, he observed two subjects standing in his yard. The resident reported that both subjects were dressed in dark clothing and were wearing ski masks.
The Piatt County Sheriff’s Department is asking anyone that has information in regard to these crimes to contact the sheriff’s department at 217-762-5761. Residents are encouraged to lock their vehicles and other structures and to not leave valuable items in plain sight. Investigator Apperson stated that although locking up property does not always safeguard against unlawful entry and theft; it does help to limit crimes of opportunity. He added that no community, big or small, is immune from crime, but there are things that people can do to make it harder for criminals.
Some of the crimes involved in this incident including, but not limited to, the felonies of Burglary and Burglary to Motor Vehicles which could be Class 3 or Class 2 Felonies, and Criminal Trespass to vehicle and Criminal Damage to Property. Criminal Trespass to Vehicle is a Class A Misdemeanor and Criminal Damage to Property can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the dollar amount of damage done. A Class A Misdemeanor, which is the highest class of misdemeanor in Illinois, carries a possible sentence of up to 364 days in a county jail, up to 24 months’ probation, and a maximum fine of $2,500. A Class 2 felony carries a possible sentence of 3-7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, probation of up to four years, and a fine.
This reporter also contacted Debbie Waldrop, Hammond Village President. Debbie is very concerned for the residents of Hammond and made the following statement: “The magnitude of the break-ins we have been having is something Hammond hasn’t experienced before. We have had some minor incidents, but not major. I want to encourage our residents to lock their homes, cars, garages and any other buildings. Please don’t leave purses, laptops or any other valuables in your car where there would be a temptation for someone to break-in. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Residents need to take responsibility of what goes on around them. Watch out for your neighbors, we want everyone to be safe.”
She added, “I do not think this is kids. We have good kids in our town and they are busy with sports. If you are out walking your dog late, take a flashlight with you and watch your surroundings. People unable to sleep sometimes get out and walk, watch and be safe.”
Debbie praised the Piatt County Sheriff’s Department for their response to Hammond’s needs. She encouraged residents to call the sheriff’s office if they see something suspicious of if they find something missing. She said, “Never confront anyone, be safe.”
With Hammond being a small town located on Rt. 36, Debbie feels it is possible someone from out of town is taking advantage of a small rural town.