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Tim Burke: Time to get over ‘it’s not my issue’ with thefts

Growing up in rural Nevada we never locked our house up. I don’t think we even knew where the key to the front door was.

My, how things have changed.

A couple of friends of mine recently purchased a home on the north side of Pahrump. I had touted the virtues of our community to them, and they were ready to get out of Reno and move to a more rural area. They have been in the process of cleaning up and remodeling their new Pahrump residence for the past few weeks while maintaining their northern residence, so they have been back and forth several times between the two areas.

Their new property includes several acres that needed the weeds cleaned off and some general grading done. To help them accomplish that, they purchased a used construction tractor and backhoe from a neighbor. Shortly after purchasing the tractor they had to return to Reno for a couple of days. When they came back to Pahrump they were shocked to discover that the tractor had been stolen out of their Pahrump residence’s yard.

Searching the area, they discovered a car trailer that had been crushed and then abandoned. The thief had obviously tried to move the tractor on the car trailer and it was too heavy, crushing the trailer. A trail of tractor tire tracks led off into the desert south toward central Pahrump. Eventually, the trail disappeared near a paved road. The thief had apparently found another way to haul the stolen tractor.

The sheriff’s office was contacted and a report filed. The sheriff’s office was unable to get any information off the abandoned car trailer, the VIN had been filed off and there was no license plate, so it too must have been stolen. Several days went by with no leads and nothing from the sheriff’s office.

My friends took matters into their own hands, posting pictures of the tractor around Pahrump and on the internet. They offered a reward.

Just two days after posting the information and the reward on Craigslist they were contacted by a local resident who told them they saw a tractor matching the description off of Homestead Road. It was their tractor. The tractor was halfway hidden inside a storage container on abandoned property. The sheriff’s office said they could take the tractor home and essentially closed the case since it had been found.

Since then, these new Pahrump residents have installed several security cameras that record their entire property and keep the information stored for several months. The system also transmits live video to their smartphones when motion detectors sense movement on the property. They have also fenced their property and put up physical barriers to prevent someone from stealing from them again.

The fundamental question is why did they have to resort to this level of security? Why did these new residents have their home and property violated by common criminals who stole from them?

People steal for a number of reasons. Sometimes because it’s a mental condition called kleptomania, which is a compulsive addiction to the thrill of stealing and not getting caught. Sometimes people steal out of desperation to feed and shelter themselves and their family.

All too often people steal to get some quick cash to feed their drug addiction. And it’s not just the people who commit the act of stealing that are guilty. The people that buy the stolen goods are participating in a crime also.

As are the people that are aware that someone committed a crime but do not report it. Normally thieves just aren’t all that smart about covering their tracks, and they count on a police system that is overwhelmed with more violent crimes to not devote resources to solving thefts. They also count on general apathy from the public to ignore their crime and not get involved.

Too often the people that steal from us are people we know. Family members with drug issues steal from other family members and then rationalize the stealing by telling themselves “they won’t miss it” or “they have a lot of money, they can afford to replace it.”

I know of two recent home invasions that were done by neighbors that knew when the homeowners were not home. They trashed the homes looking for cash and jewelry that they could sell quickly so they could buy drugs. Drug addiction simply destroys any sort of rational or logical thought processes. Their only thoughts are on how to get that next fix no matter who it hurts.

In the past, thieves would try to pawn stolen goods. Now with the internet, they use social media websites like Craigslist, Letgo and Facebook to sell the stolen goods. If it’s too good of a deal you may want to really think about how the person selling the item may have acquired it or you could be participating in a crime also.

We need to get over the “it’s not my issue” mentality and report thefts. Someone out there knows who stole this tractor and needs to speak up. Someone saw it being transported. Someone saw it being put into the storage container. Someone knows.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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