GATE CITY — Authorities in Southwest Virginia are investigating a series of break-ins at Hardee’s restaurants in two states that they believe could be related.
Over the past month, authorities said a total of four burglaries have occurred at Hardee’s located in Duffield and Norton, Va., and in Prestonsburg and Hazard, Ky.
The most recent incident was reported at approximately 3 a.m. Dec. 11 at the Norton Hardee’s. An employee at the restaurant reported the break-in when he arrived for work, authorities said.
“At this point we’re not releasing any details about what might have been taken,” Norton Police Chief James Lane said. “We will comment that evidence was collected at the scene, it has been processed and it is currently being investigated by the Norton Police Department.”
Scott County Sheriff John Puckett said each of the break-ins has been carried out in similar fashion, leading investigators to believe there could be a connection.
“They’ve had the same MOs in every one of these break-ins,” Scott County Sheriff John Puckett said. “They’ve happened around the same time and in each one of these they’ve disabled the electricity and cut the phone lines and they’ve known where the safes are.”
Puckett said the first burglary occurred in Duffield on Nov. 12. Like the other break-ins, Puckett said the suspects cut the power and phone lines to the restaurant, however, no money was taken during that incident.
The next reported break-in took place in Prestonsburg on Dec. 6, followed by the burglary in Hazard on Dec. 8.
In both of those instances, suspects reportedly entered between midnight and 3 a.m. and sawed open the store safes before making off with an undisclosed amount of money.
Two masked suspects were reportedly seen in short surveillance clips taken from the Kentucky burglaries, Puckett said.
“There’s was nothing of quality or identification they were able to get from the videos,” Puckett said.
Lane declined to confirm information regarding possible suspects or what exactly was stolen from the Norton restaurant due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, but he did say the burglars entered by breaking out a glass door.
Both Puckett and Lane said investigators were working to determine if the break-ins were at all related.
“During our investigation we were made aware of the two break-ins in Kentucky and the one in Duffield,” Lane said. “Our investigators contacted those authorities that day to find out additional information to see if they could be linked. At this point we have not determined if they are, or are not, linked.”
As a result of the break-ins, Puckett said patrols have been increased near Hardee’s restaurants and employees have been asked to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
Anyone with information on the burglaries can contact Scott County Sheriff’s Office Investigations at (276) 386-1351 or the Norton Police Department at (276) 679-1211. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to the Norton PD by visiting www.nortonva.org.