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Police discover four stolen safes thrown into pond near Thomson
May be connected to burglary ring

Four safes have been found in the waters of a pond near Thomson that police have linked to several robberies of Family Dollar Stores in East Central Georgia, as well as North Augusta, S.C., local authorities say.

A team of divers with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services recovered three safes during recovery missions at a large pond, located near an industrial park complex, off Mount Pleasant Road last Thursday. Divers returned to that same pond the next day, but didn't recover any safes, according to Thomson Police Department Investigator Lt Scott Whittle.

It marked the second time within the past two months that local divers have been called to the scene to help in the recovery of stolen safes, Lt. Whittle said. During that search, they discovered one safe - its door missing. In last week's search of the pond, once owned by former McDuffie County Commissioner Bob Farr, divers located the missing door of that safe.

As of Monday, there had been no arrests in any of the 10-12 robberies of the Family Dollar Stores, Lt. Whittle said. An undisclosed amount of cash has been taken from the stores during the series of robberies of those stores, including three times at two different Family Dollar Stores in Thomson. The latest store to have been hit in Thomson occurred in the Bi-Lo Shopping Center, off Main Street.

Lt. Whittle said of the three burglaries of the local Family Dollar Stores, only once has the safe been stolen. That occurred at the store located in the Thomson Plaza, off West Hill Street. Intruders have struck that store twice.

Other area Family Dollar Stores hit during the past several weeks are located in Warrenton, Lincolnton, Wadley, Columbia County, Richmond County and North Augusta, S.C.

"We believe multiple people are involved in these burglaries and the thefts of these safes," Lt. Whittle said. "We hope a recent video will help lead us to some arrests in these cases."

The veteran lawman said he has been working closely with Columbia County Sheriff's Department Investigator Tim Burnley in an attempt to solve the crimes. The two lawmen continue to share information with each other concerning crimes in their counties.

Lt. Whittle said it was helpful having divers assist in the recovery of evidence from those crimes.

"It was very beneficial to us," Lt. Whittle said. "Recovering those safes gave us a piece of the puzzle that we had been looking to find. I can't say enough about the divers and what they did for us. It didn't go unnoticed. I can assure everybody of that."

Anyone with information about these series of burglaries and thefts of safes at area Family Dollar Stores is asked to contact the Thomson Police Department at 706-595-2166 or 911. Persons in other towns where these burglaries have unfolded are asked to contact their local law enforcement agency.

Web posted on Thursday, April 02, 2009

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