Another Round of Truck Thefts Hits County

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – The Messenger had recently reported on vehicle thefts in the area, the last of which involved gangs from Honduras scoping out rural areas in order to steal vehicles and equipment. 

This past week, at least five vehicles in the area were targeted, all on the same night, in what must have been a coordinated operation. While details are still not clear, three vehicles in the Pennington area were stolen, along with reports of others near Groveton, all on the same evening. 

The Messenger reached out to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), but no details were available as of press time. As our reporting has revealed, some of these activities could be perpetrated by local groups, while outside gangs have taken to using scout cars or even drones to find vulnerable communities, before pouncing, all at once, stealing as much as the can. 

Local realtor Robin Gibson spoke to The Messenger about the quiet Hill Town Community, where all of the neighbors know each other, and many are relatives. Living there for 40 years, Gibson said they never thought about locking up vehicles or equipment, and leave the doors locked, most of the time. 

Now they have banded together to have cameras and other equipment installed as they feel violated, knowing the recent thefts could not have been random, after several pickup trucks were stolen last week. 

One resident, who usually goes to work early, noticed a little after 4 a.m. his Ford 350 pickup truck was missing. Having parked it right outside his window, he was alarmed he hadn’t heard a thing all night, when someone took the truck during the night. 

Another relative woke up to the same situation and by 9 a.m. when HCSO Sergeant Catoe arrived, three trucks in a quarter-mile radius were gone. Using GPS equipment installed in one of the pickups, it appeared to have been taken about 3 a.m. the previous morning. 

Houston Police Department later confirmed finding one of the trucks in the Houston area, while one truck was strangely abandoned in the woods near County Road 4545. While there was damage to the dashboard and a key fob was missing, a checkbook in the car was left untouched. The pickup was taken for processing as sheriff’s deputies looked into the matter. 

Gibson acknowledged they had noticed an uptick in vehicles traveling through the area, but other than warning some for speeding through the area, did not take special notice of it. She and her neighbors wondered how a group (local or outside) was able to locate the remote area, much less target and plan such a heist. They have agreed to take several measures to protect their property in the future. 

Experts say this type of crime is on the rise, as more gangs come across the southern border, bringing with them the experience and the coordination to send either scout cars or even drones to find unprotected areas. With so many miles of rural areas in our county, what can residents do to try and prevent such an attack?

Staying aware of your surroundings and who is coming and going is always key. Keeping in touch with neighbors and knowing who is visiting and coming through the area is important. Asking neighbors if they operate a drone or purchased a new vehicle and sharing this information could also prove important. Staying in touch with your county commissioner and the sheriff’s office is important, too, confirming people traveling through the area are on official business and supposed to be there. 

Tagging and locking up equipment never hurts, as cars and trucks can be tough to lose, while tractors and other heavy equipment can set a family farm or ranch back many thousands of dollars. Theft of animals and even bales of hay have been reported, too. 

Many law enforcement officials have longed warned the dangerous situation along our border will soon make its way to Houston County and this may be another sign those predictions are coming true. 

Stay tuned to The Messenger as we update this important story.  

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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