Sheriff’s office investigating utility vehicle thefts

Published 2:21 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating 12 thefts of side-by-side utility vehicles in the Maplesville area.

Sheriff Kevin Davis said the thefts have occurred since the beginning of November in the south and southwest parts of the county.

“We feel like all these cases are connected,” Davis said. “Evidence we’ve collected leads us to believe it is the same person or group.

“One or more of the suspects is probably from (the area) or has connections there. As they’re coming and going, they’re seeing these things and coming back and getting them.”

The vehicles, which are similar to four-wheelers but feature two seats next to one another, are used for recreation or for work, transporting feed around a farm, for example.

They are valued anywhere from $5,000-$15,000.

Tina Hill of Billingsley reported one of the thefts.

Hill said she had heard of similar thefts in the area but took steps to protect her family’s Arctic Cat Prowler, such as taking the key out of ignition, parking the vehicle out of sight of the road and installing motion lights at her home off Highway 82.

Despite her efforts, apparently a group of people got the vehicle out of gear in the early morning hours of Dec. 8 and rolled it several hundred feet in a cold rain onto a trailer and drove off—all without setting off the motion lights.

“My husband and my son have tried to load it before without cranking it, and they couldn’t budge it,” Hill said. “All I can say is they worked really hard for it.”

But Hill is hoping to recover the vehicle, which she estimated as being worth more than $15,000 including the accessories.

Davis said he hopes officials are close to ending their investigation.

“We feel confident we will bring this case to a close in the near future,” he said.

In the meantime, Davis encouraged residents to store four-wheelers and utility vehicles in secure locations, or at least out of sight from highways, and to remove the key from the ignition when not in use.

“People use these things to run around their homes and farms. You pull up, jump out and run inside. You don’t think about taking your key out like you do your truck,” Davis said. “It’s sad. I wish in Chilton County, Alabama, we could leave stuff out and nobody would bother it.”