EARLIER: Burglary spree targets insurance agencies

-A A +A

Farm Bureau offers $5,000 reward

By Lisa King

As many as a dozen businesses, primarily insurance agencies, have been the targets of a recent series of break-ins spanning a four-county area that has motivated some of the victims to offer their help to law enforcement.

Little information is available from Shelby County's police agencies, but the business community is abuzz about what some see as a carefully planned series of burglaries in which the perpetrators smash windows, cut communications and power lines and carry away safes that they later open.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office would offer no firm information about the spree, and Shelbyville Police say they are awaiting more reports.

But Simpsonville Police Chief Scott Chappell said that several local and area police agencies, including his, are banding together to pool information about the crimes that have been occurring during the past several days in Shelby, Oldham, Spencer and Henry counties.

Chappell said so far he has no leads on the break-ins in his city, which include the Farm Bureau Agency, Cottrell's Farm Equipment and Moore's Equipment Co., which occurred on Sunday.

"We have not made an arrest in the case so far, but one of my guys went to the meeting today about it in Spencer County." he said.

But by far the most frequently hit businesses appear to be insurance agencies, and agents are taking matters into their own hands.

Mark Lyle, Farm Bureau's agency program director for a 12-county area including Shelby County, said that he knows of Farm Bureaus in Henry County and Simpsonville, as well as State Farms, one in Eminence, one on Midland Trail in Shelbyville and one at the corner of Mount Eden Road and Seven-Mile Pike.

"They have cut the phone lines in a lot of these break-ins," he said. "This has got to stop."

Farm Bureau is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the break-ins at its office in Simpsonville.

"It's unbelievable," said Pat Hargadon, agency manager for Shelby County Farm Bureau. "Somebody has developed an 'affection' for insurance agencies. I commend Farm Bureau for stepping up to the plate and offering this reward."

Pat Murphy agreed. His agency in Simpsonville was hit twice - the first time last Tuesday and again Sunday night.

"At first I was shocked; now I'm angry," said Murphy, who also happens to be board president of Crime Stoppers.

"They took a small amount of cash and some other small items last week, and Sunday they broke the door and came in," he said, adding that the thieves also cut the phone and computer lines.

"We are taking this extremely seriously. We are serious about catching these people; that's why we want the reward to be known. We'll see how good their friends are. If they want to keep knocking off insurance agencies at $100 a pop, we'll see if their buddies can make five thousand dollars by turning them in."

Chris Nutter of Logan Blythe Insurance on Main Street in Shelbyville said his office also was broken into Sunday night.

"We didn't find anything missing, but we think they got scared away because a tenant come in at about that time and noticed the window was open," he said.

The woman went back to her car and called police.

"They tore the window out of its frame to get in and ripped the power box completely off the building and left it laying on the ground," Nutter said. "It scared the girl who saw it half to death, the poor thing,"

Dale Vineyard at the State Farm in Crestwood in Oldham County said his place has not been hit, and if the thieves come there, they will get a big surprise because he has an extremely sophisticated alarm system that has not been penetrated since it was installed 10 years ago.

He added that he thinks one reason the insurance companies have been targeted is that mistaken idea that they keep an abundance of cash on hand,

"People think we collect a lot of money, but we don't," he said. "We mostly just get checks, and we deposit everything daily."

He also pointed out that the thieves seem to be avoiding big cities like Lexington and Louisville.

"Although there may have been a few places hit out near the Jefferson County line, they're staying away from the big towns," he said.

Farm Bureau is asking that anyone with any information about these crimes call the Shelby County Sheriff's Office at 633-4324.