An unusual number of burglaries have taken place in southern Hillsdale County and surrounding areas over the past two or three months, areas largely populated by the Amish community.
“It might have happened once, but not like this,” said Hillsdale County resident Esther Lengacher. “It’s just going on and on.”
Several residents in Hillsdale County, Branch County and Steuben County, Indiana, have been reporting burglaries in their areas. Hillsdale County Sheriff Timothy Parker said four of the suspects in those areas have been arrested, and that the burglaries are not all connected.
“There are kind of independent operators stealing from Amish and non-Amish,” he said.
The main things being stolen, according to several Amish Hillsdale County residents, are guns, chainsaws, and money. At different homes the suspects have stolen between $300 and $1000, and have also taken checks that were previously written and signed, according to Hillsdale County resident Miss Delagrange, who requested that her first name be left anonymous.
Hillsdale County resident John Graber said both law enforcement as well as his non-Amish neighbors have been assisting in trying to catch the suspects.
“The sheriff’s department and state police have been taking active roles in investigating and surveillance in the southwest part of the county concerning recent burglaries,” Parker said.
The first burglary occurred on a Sunday a little over two months ago, according to Graber. The suspects broke in after the family had left for church, stealing around $300, guns, two chain saws, and a crossbow.
“The door knob, seal, and jam were all broken…every cabinet and closet were broken into, it appears,” he said.
Parker said he had not heard any reports of internal home damage along with the burglaries. However, Delagrange said that at one house in Reading, Michigan where a checkbook was stolen, it appeared that the suspects had been hitting doors and walls with wood in an attempt to fend off the residents’ dog.
A few residents said there have been several instances of suspicious activity, where a stranger has come up to the house and asked to buy firewood or eggs and then leaves. Delagrange said a visitor even came once on Sunday, when Amish residents do not normally do business.
Parker said that after looking back on the past 30 years, the recent events do not seem unusual.
“We have seem crime sprees come and go,” he said. “That’s the nature of the business. It’s just this tragic situation where we’ve got people stealing from others, and we’ll work diligently at the situation until we can find them and put them behind bars.”
Delagrange said residents in her area are “shocked” by the situation, and Parker said it is unusual for Amish residents to report burglaries to law enforcement as they have been recently.
Despite the unsettling nature of the situation, Graber said his community prays for the government and wants to forgive those who have harmed them.
“We believe the government is here to punish evil and protect the good,” he said. “We believe in loving our enemies as much as possible, and we hope they will repent from being thieves.”