Thanks to good police work on one case, and the help of facebook on another, the Hillsville Police Department was able to make an arrest for a stolen vehicle and solve a rash of gas drive-offs in Hillsville this past weekend.
On March 1, members of the HPD responded to a report of a stolen vehicle from the parking lot at Red Carpet Inn, just off Interstate 77’s Exit 14 in Hillsville. Within a few minutes, Sgt. Robert Martin, Officers Bradley Hoffman and Brandon Quesenberry conducted a felony stop on the suspect vehicle, a PT Crusier. Sgt. Martin then placed Nicholas Daniel Dutton, age 28, of Mount Airy, N.C., under arrest for the alleged larceny of the vehicle, Hillsville Police Chief Greg Bolen said.
Dutton was transported to New River Valley Regional Jail after an appearance before the magistrate, Bolen added.
According to Bolen, the HPD received a call from a woman at Red Carpet Inn stating a friend had come with her to the motel before taking off with the vehicle. After Martin entered the vehicle as stolen, the HPD officers spotted the vehicle within 20 minutes.
“They conducted a felony stop on it and found Mr. Dutton inside the vehicle, and Sgt. Martin placed him under arrest for the alleged theft of the vehicle,” Bolen said. “They did a good job. They took the report and acted on it. It is a credit to their pro-active patrols that we are trying to do.”
On Feb. 27, Officer Hoffman took a report of a gas-drive off at Race-In in Hillsville. Then on Friday evening, Bolen said Race-In owner Greg Crowder called HPD to report several similar incidents of gas drive-offs matching one suspect’s description and vehicle, a Ford dually pickup truck.
Based on that information, Bolen said Sgt. Junior Alderman went to Race-In and viewed several videos, making still photographs from the videos. The stills were used for posts on the Hillsville Police Department’s facebook page asking for help identifying the suspect.
“Within a few hours we had several tips come in, and one paid off with a lot of the information. We investigated the information and through that investigation were able to identify the driver of the vehicle,” Bolen said. “This was approximately the fourth time he had driven off from Race-In.”
Bolen said Crowder declined to prosecute the out-of-state suspect after he made full restitution. The man has since been barred from Race-In, said Bolen, who is quickly becoming a firm believer in the power of facebook.
“It had 18,325 views when I last checked it. It’s just unreal. I think 210 people had shared it, and all of their friends saw it,” Bolen said. “That is 18,000 people that I don’t have to pay overtime to. It is just awesome that people want to help out. Besides Hillsville, we had tips coming in from all over the area, from Mount Airy to Ararat, Galax and even Wytheville.”