[at-l] TN thieves head to jail for AT trailhead incidents

Steve Landis s.landis at comcast.net
Wed Feb 1 19:34:37 CST 2012

And in the category of "might not help but can't hurt"...  a sign(s) on 
the car window(s) stating - no cash; no credit cards; no equipment; 
sh*tty radio.


On 2/1/2012 8:23 PM, RockDancer wrote:
>  From www.smokymountainnews.com <http://www.smokymountainnews.com>
> Wednesday, 01 February 2012 - The article also mentions “tent
> break-ins”, something I haven’t heard about before. - Arthur / RockDancer
>     Hikers’ cars hit by thieves: Trailhead safety becomes focus after
>     recent “car clout” convictions
>     Three Tennessee residents are headed to prison for breaking into a
>     slew of cars at trailheads in Haywood County during a several month
>     period, hitting hiker’s vehicles in the Great Smoky Mountains
>     National Park and the Pisgah National Forest.
> The three stole credit and debit cards, and ran up charges on them,
> while the unsuspecting victims were off happily hiking … often for
> several days at a time. Other personal items were stolen, too, including
> a man’s billfold and, most brazenly, a U.S. government credit card from
> a U.S. Forest Service employee’s vehicle.
> Their arrests and subsequent prosecutions have put renewed focus on what
> you should do, and not do, when parking a vehicle before taking a hike
> or backpacking trip.
> The main thing is to “use common sense,” said avid hiker Cory McCall of
> Outdoor 76, an outfitter store in Franklin. “These trails do cross
> roads, and you often leave your car in vulnerable places.”
> McCall is currently helping an Appalachian Trail thru hiker try to
> decide on a safe spot to leave her vehicle in Macon County for an
> extended period of time. That might not be completely possible, but
> there are steps hikers such as that can take, according to forest experts.
> And here’s what the victims of the relatively recent break-ins didn’t
> do: they failed to take valuables out of their vehicles.
> That meant when the Tennessee trio — Billy Chad Reese, 39, his wife,
> Christy Leann Reese and Jessica Hope Daniels — systematically smashed
> the passenger-side windows of cars at trailheads, they were amply
> rewarded for their criminal intentions. Specifically, they hit
> trailheads at Big Creek in the Smokies and Max Patch and Harmon Den in
> the Pisgah National Forest.
> They would hit as many as five cars at the trailhead at one time. They
> would then go back into Cocke County, Tenn. and promptly use the cards
> to buy everything from cigarettes to jewelry.
> When it comes to protecting visitors to the national forest lands and
> the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, law enforcement officers with
> both agencies are taking a hold-no-prisoners stance.
> And that focus is paying off: In the Smokies alone, more than 100 people
> in the past decade have been prosecuted for car break-ins, dubbed “car
> clouts,” at trail heads.
> “That makes a big dent,” said Clay Jordan, chief ranger for the Park.
> Sure does: The Smokies used to average about 100 car clouts per year.
> That number dropped to 37 incidents in 2010 and 14 in 2011.
> “We have a cadre of rangers and special agents who are very attuned to
> it,” Jordan said of Park personnel’s attention to trail heads and
> visitor safety.
> That’s true, too, of workers on the Nantahala and Pisgah national
> forests. Stevin Wescott, who oversees public relations for the U.S.
> Forest Service in this area, said extensive efforts are oriented toward
> educating hikers. But, still, the fact remains that “it is pretty clear
> that theft is probably the most reported crime” in the national forests.
> “We are always trying to encourage people to be safe,” Wescott said.
> “It’s very sad when (theft) happens. Our officers feel terrible for the
> people.”
> Echoing McCall from Outdoor 76, Wescott said that visitors “should try
> to leave their valuables at home. If they must leave them in their car,
> tuck them out of site. Bring only the bare essentials.”
> That advice holds true on the trail, too, the U.S. Forest ranger said.
> Tent break-ins also occur.
> Smokies Chief Ranger Jordan said law enforcement is able to successfully
> prosecute most offenders. The crime, which is a felony offense
> prosecuted in the federal court system, carries a prison term. On
> average, those found guilty typically receive a six- to 12-month
> sentence plus three years probation, Jordan said.
> The Tennessee man, Reese, pleaded guilty in August and was recently
> sentenced to serve more than 10 years in prison by a U.S. district judge
> and pay $23,000 in restitution. Reese received such a stiff sentence
> because of prior burglary convictions. When arrested, Reese was
> unlawfully in possession of a handgun. This meant he received an
> “enhanced” sentence under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act.
> His female accomplices are scheduled Feb. 27 for sentencing.
>         Trailhead-safety tips
> /• Remove valuables from vehicles./
> /• If you must leave valuables in vehicles, hide them out of sight in
> the glove compartment or trunk./
> /• Scan the trailhead to make sure no one suspicious is hanging about.
> If they are, consider moving to another trailhead./
> /• Do not leave a hiking itinerary on your dash. Leave it with friends,
> family or at a ranger station./
> /• Don’t back your car into a parking spot. This provides thieves cover
> to break into the trunk./
> Arthur D. Gaudet
> RockDancer on the Appalachian Trail
> Rockdancer97 at comcast.net

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