Mary Kelley has been the victim of thieves three times in two years at her home, which is just outside the Wagener town limits.
Three lawn mowers have been taken, a water pump was destroyed after the burglars reportedly drove over it, and a window in a back bedroom was shattered where the thieves made entry during one incident.
Kelley said she's afraid to leave her home, and she's had enough. She is one of many Wagener residents planning to attend the Town Council meeting on Monday night to voice their concerns about burglaries in the area, and to see what they can do about it.
A Facebook event has been created for the meeting.
“Tired of the drugs and break-ins that have become part of our community?,” a message on the event's wall reads. “Join me and many others on Monday, February 4 at the Town Council Meeting in Wagener. Let's show up and tell the council and the local police that we support them and are willing to do whatever is asked of us to help rid our community of the problem.”
“We're thinking it's going to be a very productive meeting,” Wagener Chief of Police Jeff Key said. “Mostly just people coming to see what they can do to help. What we want to do is lay out the ground work for them and give them ideas.”
In recent weeks, the town had been plagued with a number of garage and shed break-ins – about two per week, according to Key. The number of such break-ins has decreased dramatically since authorities arrested a man accused of breaking into the garage of a Holley Street home on Jan. 16.
“It basically went to zero,” Key said of the number of shed break-ins since the suspect was arrested.
Key said he will stress to residents to lock up their homes, sheds and garages, including large outdoor items that may appeal to thieves, such as lawn mowers and tools.
He'll also emphasize recording serial numbers for items, from iPods to televisions to chainsaws.
“I can't tell you how many countless items different agencies recover, and they're never able to be given back to an owner because we have no idea who they were stolen from,” Key said. “If we don't have a serial number, we can't enter it into the NCIC computer, so we don't know if it's stolen.”
You can also carve a symbol or your initials into an item, Key said.
“We have to have some kind of distinguishing mark,” he said. “It's something most people don't think about until it's too late.”
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Wagener Town Hall.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.