A Morrisville official has attributed a recent spate of break-ins in Morrisville and Cary to gang activity, but leaders in both police departments said that’s not the case.
Earlier this month, Tony Chiotakis, Morrisville’s director of community services, warned of possible gang activity after council member Vicki Scroggins-Johnson brought up break-ins at a Town Council meeting. Dozens of people have had their cars or homes broken into since mid-August, officials said, which represented a noticeable increase.
“Part of this is initiation work, where these folks want to be part of a gang and have to prove themselves,” Chiotakis said. “This is not your normal, run-of-the-mill person who might run if you confront them. They want to prove themselves.”
But Morrisville Police Chief Ira Jones said while most of the people who have been arrested in connection with the break-ins have been from out of town, that doesn’t mean they’re in gangs.
“That theory is out there, but we have no reason to believe it is true,” Jones said.
A few days after the meeting, Chiotakis declined further comment and referred questions to Jones.
Capt. Randall Rhyne, a Cary Police investigator, said in an email that no break-ins in Cary are related to gang activity, either.
Jones said the arrests haven’t stopped similar crimes from occurring and the suspects are from several different cities, leading him to believe gangs aren’t involved.
He said residents, especially in the wealthier, quieter parts of both Morrisville and Cary, are making themselves easy targets for criminals by leaving their cars and homes unlocked.
Jones and Cary Police Capt. Ken Quinlan met with concerned residents of the large Preston neighborhood that spans both towns to offer safety tips.
Many of the break-ins have been in the wooded, high-end development, Jones said. According to U.S. Census tract data, the median household income for the Preston area in 2012 was about $150,000 a year – more than double the Wake County average of $60,000.
“These folks have free rein, so our message was, ‘Help us out, make yourself a harder target,’ ” Jones said, warning residents to lock their cars and homes.
A few days after that meeting, Dick Anders, a resident of of the Preston Ponds subdivision, said his small cul-de-sac hasn’t been targeted by thieves, but that neighbors are on edge.
“I think a lot of us are maybe a little more careful now, leaving our lights on and things like that,” said Anderson, who was raking leaves in his yard.
Anderson said he hadn’t noticed an increased police presence in his neighborhood, but he wasn’t worried because his neighbors watch out for each other.
“We’re a pretty close bunch,” Anderson said. “We have a meeting about once a month. And we’re good about looking out when someone goes out of town.”
In the meantime, he said, he thinks people are being more careful about not leaving valuables in their cars, as well as taking other steps to make their homes less flashy.
Jones said that’s exactly what people need to do. Jones said Chiotakis was right in warning people to call the police instead of directly confronting a suspicious person.
“If you see something, say something,” Jones said. “No matter how trivial it might seem, call us and let us know.”
Jones said he also is addressing misconceptions among Cary and Morrisville residents that criminals are targeting the homes of Indian families.
That’s not true, he said, although he acknowledged the concerns among that community. He and Cary officials are organizing a meeting with local Indian families to address crime issues on Jan. 10 at Cary’s Bond Park Community Center.