North Carolina Investigators Note Crime Increase Due to Opioid Epidemic
Investigator Ron Guyton of the Whiteville Police Department in North Carolina and his team are hoping to locate a few people who are involved in a violent crime and reoccurring property crime ring that he believes has been fueled by the opioid crisis. The team has noted an overall increase in crime fueled by opioids.
“Our overall crime situation in Whiteville and pretty much everywhere else I believe is driven by the opioid crisis,” Guyton said. “Most of my property crime I believe is directly attributed to the users who are desperately trying to fill their habit.”
Guyton said the violent crime is being driven by the dealers looking to make some quick cash. “I have a suspect, a couple of suspects that have been hitting coin-operated machines,” Guyton said. This has happened numerous times over the course of the last several months.
Guyton said the suspect is using a crowbar to remove cash from vending machines at Go Gas stations and other businesses that have vending machines. “Actually goes after the dollar bill changer, just pops it out and rips it out, and takes whatever money is in there,” he explained, adding that this has occurred at least a handful of times in Whiteville and at least twice at Go Gas stations in Shallotte. He believes it is the same individual due to a trail of blood that’s been left behind. “In reaching in, he apparently cut his hand, because there was blood inside the machine,” Guyton said. Investigators are waiting for DNA results.
It costs far more to repair the machines than the suspect retrieved from them, said Guyton, indicating the man is stealing less than $20 from each, but it costs about $200 to fix one. Law enforcement also looking for the man’s girlfriend who has been seen on a surveillance camera driving the getaway car, a Hyundai Sonata.
Investigators are also trying to solve a violent crime that happened on August 2 at the Econo Lodge on J.K. Powell Boulevard. “This individual came in,” he explained. “He had his whole head wrapped in what appeared to be a t-shirt and was wearing gloves.” The suspect had a firearm and there was only one clerk working at the time.
“She was behind the counter,” he continued. “He came in, pointed the gun at her and said, ‘Give me the money.’ She complied with him and just simply handed over the till and he left without any further incident.”
He said this case demonstrates a new level of desperation. Addicts need their drug of choice so badly they will stop at nothing to get it. “Because if he feels he was successful at this, he can possibly do it again,” Guyton said, noting the stakes will likely increase.
A report released by the Department of Justice-affiliated National Institute for Justice in December of last year indicated the opioid epidemic is predictably associated with an increase in violent crime as a greater demand for these drugs fuels drug trafficker violence. “A speculative but plausible reason for the increased police attention to heroin in recent years is growing violence in and around illicit drug markets,” the report reads.