Burglars strike at Newell field

NEWELL – The recent rash of burglaries in Newell apparently includes the old concession stand and press box of Newell Memorial Field, Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher said.

Fletcher told Hancock County commissioners at their Thursday meeting that someone had broken into the buildings and had been using them for “illicit activity.”

In an interview, Fletcher said deputies found “contraband of drug activity in both places.” The buildings’ locks and chains had been forced open, he said, noting that deputies since have secured the buildings with new locks.

Formerly used for Oak Glen High School home football games, Newell Memorial Field was sold by the Hancock County school board as surplus property to commissioners for $400,000 late last year. Commissioners say they want to market the 4.25-acre piece of property for economic development purposes.

On Tuesday, Newell residents met with commissioners and Fletcher to discuss the future of the football stadium and their concerns about crime in the unincorporated community.

Fletcher said Thursday there was no truth to the rumor that another home burglary took place during the community meeting. He said it was simply another report of a burglary to a vacant house that had happened Jan. 31.

Fletcher reiterated his complaint that residents aren’t doing enough to report crime when they see it. “We had two witnesses who saw men in hoodies and masks use a table to gain access to that building,” he said. “They saw it going down at the time but didn’t report it. … You’ve got to help yourself once in awhile.”

At their Thursday meeting, commissioners praised Fletcher for the sheriff’s department’s response to the Newell burglaries so far. “I think you laid out a good plan for the people of Newell,” Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said Tuesday’s meeting at the Newell Lions Den “got a little rowdy at times” but ended up being productive. He said a curfew in unincorporated parts of the county may be one way to address the problem.