ATF offers $5K reward as break-ins target law enforcement cars in the foothills

ATF offers $5K reward as break-ins target law enforcement cars in the foothills
This is the damage done to a Burke County Sheriff's Office vehicle. (Source: Steve Ohnesorge)

HICKORY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), has announced a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for multiple thefts from law enforcement vehicles.

At least five marked patrol vehicles and one personal car with law enforcement equipment have been broken into in three foothills counties in the past week. Three Hickory SUV take-home patrol cars were targeted right where the officers live.

“This is scary, “ said Lt R. Denton of Long View Police. It was in Long View that one of the Hickory patrol cars had it’s rear window broken out. “They stole AR-15 magazines and some body armor."

In Caldwell County, another Hickory patrol SUV was broken into. From that vehicle the thieves took an assault style rifle, ammunition, body armor, uniforms and a drone. The third Hickory vehicle was broken into in Catawba County.

Hickory Police officials would not comment except to say the the SBI and Federal authorities are involved. Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant says he has told his deputies to remove all equipment from the vehicles when going off duty.

One of his department’s marked patrol cars had a window smashed by the thieves. They did get inside, he says, but came up empty. “Our officer did indeed remove all the equipment took it into his house.”

Officials are not sure of the motive behind the thefts, though it is likely, they think that the items will be sold. Anyone with information, says Whisenant, should contact their local law enforcement agency.

These crimes are being investigated by the Federal authorities, the ATF, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Hickory Police Department, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Burke County Sheriff’s Office and Catawba County Sheriff’s Office.

Anyone with any information about these crimes should contact ATF at 1-888-ATF-TIPS (888-283-8477). Information can also be sent to, through ATF’s website. Tips may be submitted anonymously using the ReportIt app or by All tips will remain anonymous.

Additionally, information may be provided to the Hickory Police Department at 828-261-2625.

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