By Beth Lawrence
Sylva Police have arrested a local man following a string of vehicle break-ins last month.
Travis Jerome Staffelbach was arrested on July 13 for vehicle break-ins that occurred between June 20 and 25, Assistant Police Chief John Thomas said.
Staffelbach, 40, of Sylva was arrested for nine counts of felony breaking and entering of a motor vehicle, two counts of felony larceny, one count each of felony identity theft and felony obtaining property by false pretense, and six counts each of misdemeanor larceny and misdemeanor injury to personal property.
Eight break-ins took place in the parking area of Pinnacle Park and one in Town of Sylva parking on Main Street. Staffelbach allegedly forced his way into the cars by breaking windows to gain access.
The crimes were bold, taking place in broad daylight during the afternoon and early evening hours.
“Various items were stolen such as but not limited to: wallets, purses, cash, credit cards, etc. of the nine victims,” Thomas said. “The dollar amounts ranged from less than $100 to over $1,000.”
Staffelbach is also accused of using the bank card of one of his victims leading to the identity theft and obtaining property by false pretense charges.
He is being held at Jackson County Detention Center in lieu of a $47,000 secured bond.
Stafflebach’s criminal record dates to 1998 for crimes including misdemeanor: larceny, damage to property, assault with a deadly weapon on an executive, legislative or court officer and felony: maintaining a place for distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to sell and deliver; all occurred in Macon County. He received probation for these offenses. Staffelbach’s probation was later revoked, and he served one year and six months at Piedmont Correctional Institute for the maintaining a dwelling place charge.
Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Franklin Police Department assisted in the investigation.
SPD warns residents to take precautions against becoming victims.
“The Sylva Police Department encourages citizens to be vigilant and secure their vehicles and valuables at all times,” Thomas said. “Even though there was forced entry in these cases, a very high percentage of motor vehicle break-ins occur involving unlocked vehicles. The public should always lock their vehicles, even at their residence.”
Residents and visitors can take the following precautions to protect their property:
• Park under security lights, and park cars where they can easily be seen from residences or businesses.
• Make sure windows and doors are locked on both vehicles and residencies, especially when they are unoccupied.
• Do not leave valuables in plain sight on vehicle seats or in floorboards where they can easily be seen by passersby. Use trunks and interior storage compartments to hide items from view.
• Park in well-lit areas.
• Trim hedges and bushes around homes and businesses below window level so thieves cannot enter without being seen.
• If there are no security lights in the area, purchase motion activated lights and mount them on the corners of buildings.