By: Melanie Torre
PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) - Three East Texas agencies are now teaming up to get to the bottom of an East Texas theft ring.
So far, more than a dozen people have been arrested in the thefts, which involve everything from guns to ATVs, but several other suspects are still loose.
"The more we communicate, the better our chances are of actually not stumbling over each other, but working together to catch these criminals," says Sheriff Greg Taylor of Anderson County.
More than 17 Anderson County locals have been arrested on separate charges, but Sheriff Greg Taylor says they're all members of a theft ring that has been plaguing the county for months.
Sheriff Taylor says there could be at least 10 more suspects on the loose.
"That's a big business, you know. You've got things being stolen, guitars from Westwood Baptist Church and what have you, and they're traded for dope," adds Taylor.
Westwood Baptist Church was broken into three times last month.
"They broke windows ... some large windows. They broke two doors, one door twice to get in," said Kevin Stacey from Westwood Baptist.
Kevin says the thieves broke this window here to get into an office and steal a guitar. Officials say the guitar was recovered and linked to suspects in the theft ring.
"Some of these people we've arrested are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. That carries a step higher than the crime they actually committed, so a lot of times it's a second or first degree felony that we have them charged with," explain Taylor.
Sheriff Taylor says by stepping up these charges, law enforcement will be able to put the thieves in jail for longer periods of time, keeping them off the streets of Anderson County.