For people with possessions for which they have no room at home, locking the property away in a storage unit is an appealing alternative — unless those units are targeted by thieves.
That has been the case in recent days at Sheets Transfer & Storage on Hickory Street in Mount Airy, where items with a total value of about $60,000 have been stolen from multiple storage units.
“There are three that we know of — potentially there could be a couple more,” Detective J.W. Cox of the Mount Airy Police Department said Friday of units known to have been broken into so far. Owners of others possibly haven’t discovered the thefts due to the tendency to lock items away and forget about them.
The good news is, vigorous investigative efforts by Mount Airy police and the Surry County Sheriff’s Office — including some of the stolen property being found after a search warrant was exercised at an Ararat residence — mean a break in the case is near.
Cox says two men have been implicated so far and he hopes a list of charges can be finalized in a week or so.
“It is still an ongoing investigation,” he said of the case.
That investigation was sparked with the Oct. 3 discovery of two break-ins of storage units at Sheets involving a long list of items.
More than $35,000 worth of property was taken from a single unit, with its owners identified as Gregory Lane Slate of Wards Gap Road and Martin Keith Slate, a Herring Street resident.
Included were a pair of 2000 Yamaha motorcycles valued at $12,000 each, one of which was recovered when it was abandoned by a rider approaching a traffic checkpoint. Also included was a $10,000 cedar chest containing various Dale Earnhardt items, two Stihl chainsaws and a Stihl leaf blower, motorcycle helmets, tents, tools and other property.
Also on Oct. 3, another Sheets storage unit was discovered to have been forcibly entered, leading to the theft of property owned by James Algie Penn, who lives on Maple Drive, and Beverly Hagwood of Greentown Road. It included furniture, stereo equipment, motorcycle riding suits, helmets, lamps and more.
The latest incident was discovered Sunday, involving a storage unit containing a computer system, a curio cabinet, 150 compact discs and other items owned by Ronnie Dean Hardy and Debbie Meadows Hardy of Greenhill Road.
Police say the method of entry included cutting or drilling into the locks in order to destroy the mechanisms and remove the locks.
Cox, the city detective, emphasized that additional cases might arise as owners check on their storage units and possibly discover similar crimes.
One of the units hit, for example, hadn’t been checked on since Aug. 3.
Cox does believes more property owners will come forward, since some of the items located during the search included ones that were not accounted for in addition to those known to have been stolen.
The detective added that officials of Sheets Transfer & Storage have been extremely cooperative during the investigation.
Police chief offers tips
While consumers might believe property placed into a storage unit is safe, the recent crimes suggest otherwise, and Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said the incidents point to the need for extra diligence on their part.
This includes using storage units at locations with secure entrance and exit points.
“Make sure there are security cameras,” Watson said of another precaution. “And routinely check your storage unit as well.”
The police chief further suggested maintaining renters’ insurance to protect property being housed at a storage business.
“Don’t rely on that facility to provide absolute coverage.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter