But community involvement has been known to help police investigations. And it is because of such involvement and the stellar work of the Three Rivers Police Department that a strong local burglary ring was recently cracked, said Jon West, prosecutor for Live Oak and McMullen Counties.
“It started with concerned citizens reporting suspicions activities to local law enforcement,” West said. “The community involvement allowed law enforcement to break this very well-established theft ring.”
The local investigation got results. First there were arrests, and ultimately, three of the burglary ring participants pleaded guilty in local court and landed behind bars in state prison, officials said.
• Joshua Dean Roberts, 21, of George West, who pleaded guilty to burglary of a habitation on April 16 and was sentenced to three years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court records show.
• Benjamin Joseph Noblett, 33, of Mathis, who pleaded guilty to burglary of a habitation on April 16 and received five years in TDCJ, records show.
• David Melchor, 64, of Three Rivers, who went as far as to attend a first day at trial before pleading guilty to possession of stolen property on April 23. He was sentenced to nine months in TDCJ, according to records.
Melchor seemed convinced he wasn’t going to see jail time for his offense — he believed that authorities would cut him a deal in exchange for testifying against someone else. But he was wrong, West said.
Because of the plea, Melchor faces more time in jail. He was serving a 10-year probated sentence for intoxication assault out of San Antonio. His plea constitutes a violation of that probation, West said.
Typically, a theft ring is composed of various individuals acting together in different capacities. One group, which in this case include Roberts and Noblett, commit the actual thefts.
Once the merchandise is stolen, it is delivered to what is known as a “stash house” for safekeeping — which is the crime Melchor pleaded guilty to committing.
“He was the storer,” West said.
From there, the stolen items are transferred to others to sell or “fence.” Then they are sold on the black market.
“The further down the line this goes, the harder it is to tie an offender to the criminal activity,” West said.
Although the number of burglaries in the state of Texas has dropped slightly in recent years, they stay in the 200,000 range, according to The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Crime Report. As many as 204,976 burglaries were committed in the state of Texas in 2012; 229,269 in 2010; and 240,193 in 2009, the Texas Crime Report shows.
But again, many residential burglaries go unreported. Various experts speculate that some individuals have trouble considering burglary a crime, while others do not have faith in authorities to catch their burglars.
But vigilance on the part of residents can go a long way toward helping police solve these crimes — which is why closing the case on Roberts, Noblett and Melchor is such a victory for the community, West said.
It is important to remember that much valuable information regarding local individuals fencing stolen goods was compiled during the working of this case, which will be used as authorities move toward cracking other theft rings, West added.
“The ultimate objective is to discourage organized theft rings from operating locally,” he said.
West said a large factor behind many such burglary rings is drug addiction. It prompts many criminals to commit thefts and burglaries to feed their addiction, the prosecutor said.
“Attempting to treat and rehabilitate dug offenders can greatly reduce local crime, but the only way to discourage organized crime is prison,” West said. “The district attorney’s office will continue to work aggressively with local law enforcement to identify and bring offenders to trial. Ultimately, it will be up to local juries to send a message that as a community we will no longer be victims.”