Some James Island residents frustrated by a continuing rash of home burglaries are keeping guns handy, installing security systems and locking doors to keep from being victimized.
Tim Osbon said that he brought home a 12-gauge shotgun and added a residential alarm system. "People are really fed up. I'm one of them," he said.
Osbon stressed that he has no desire to use a gun against an intruder.
"It is just that we have the right and responsibility to defend our homes, our families and our livelihoods against this wave of home burglaries," he said.
Charleston police have investigated at least 15 burglaries on James
Island since the beginning of August. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office has investigated at least 24 burglaries on the island in that time. Updated burglary numbers, including those from this week, were not available. Both police agencies said residents need to be watchful of their neighborhoods, report strangers or unusual activity and register the serial number on their electronics so they can be identified when recovered.
Osbon said he sees an alarm company truck in his neighborhood every day. He has heard reports of burglars posing as utility workers to case a house before they strike.
To add insult to injury, in some burglaries the thieves have helped themselves to food and beverages while stealing thousands of dollars worth of electronics.
"They are terrifying the residents here on James Island," he said.
His brother, David Osbon, said a police helicopter hovered over his house Wednesday and that he saw lots of uniformed officers in the area after hearing about more break-ins.
James Island Town Councilwoman Karen Wilder-Smalls has been organizing neighborhood crime watches. "At one time James Island was a place where people could leave the doors open," she said.
The burglars typically knock on the front door and go around back to gain entry if no one answers. Wilder-Smalls said if an unexpected visitor comes to the front door, it should be opened with a cell phone in hand ready to dial 911.
She thinks the criminals are unemployed delinquents lured by fast money from selling big-screen TVs, stereos, laptop computers and other electronics.
Investigators have been combing the area, stopping cars and talking to people in their yards. Some of the burglaries are "heartbreaking" because a ring or family heirloom is stolen that has more sentimental than street value, officials said.
City police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. They have reported making progress in their investigation and said they have searched homes and recovered stolen goods. A Sheriff's Office spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Thieves kicked in the front door of Eileen Lentz's house in the Wexford Sound subdivision the morning of Sept. 22 while she was at a doctor's appointment. They stole two laptop computers. Lentz speculated that she surprised the burglars because they left behind the laptop power cords.
The resident of a Harbortowne Road house that was burglarized told a deputy that somebody kicked in the back door after 8 p.m. and took two flat-screen televisions, a laptop, about $10,000 worth of jewelry and a semi-automatic .45-caliber handgun.
Neighbors reported seeing three black men in an older blue Oldsmobile and a young black man riding a gray bike in the area, according to the incident report.
In another case, a burglar kicked in a back door during the daytime. A Relyea Avenue resident reported a burglary Aug. 26. He told deputies that when he got home from work about 4:30 p.m., he found that his back door had been kicked in and that somebody had rifled through his house, according to the incident report.
Items reported stolen included a 58-inch flat-screen TV, stereo system, cell phone and a camera and lenses. The value of the stolen items was estimated at $4,450 and damage to the door at $500.
A Dills Bluff Road resident reported a burglary, telling a deputy that he left the house at 8 a.m. and found he had been burglarized when he returned home about 1 p.m. The burglar apparently entered through unlocked garage doors. The resident said all the rooms had been rifled through. Stolen items included a 37-inch flat-screen TV and a laptop computer and 17-inch monitor.
A witness told the deputy he saw three young black men running away from the house toward Seaside Lane carrying several bags.
Break-ins also were reported on Teliaferro Drive, Winborn Drive and Fort Johnson Road.
In North Charleston, residents reported suspicious activity last week. According to a police report, an 87-year-old woman living on Gale Avenue told officers about a man who posed as a survey-taker for SCE&G.
The man was described as a 5-foot-8, clean-shaven white male with brown hair and blue eyes, and weighing 180 pounds. He wore a blue shirt and khakis, drove a black sedan and reportedly took a tour of the woman's house Sept. 23 while she looked on, paying close attention to and remarking on the woman's expensive items. She told police he also looked closely at her windows.
The woman didn't report any missing items, but police reported a similar incident had occurred the previous day that did involve a theft, the report said.