Police investigate Ripley vehicle break-ins, certify members of county-wide Special Response Team

Suzette Lowe

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that people had been arrested for vehicle break-ins, based on comments by the police chief. They reportedly have not. The department reports that people were detained for questioning but not yet charged.

At its first meeting in June, Ripley City Council received good news from City Police Chief Brad Anderson.

Residents had recently been victims of vehicle break-ins. Within 48 hours of the first report to the police, the alleged thieves had been identified, he claims.

“It’s our understanding that the incidents had been happening a week or more before we received the first report,” Anderson said. “What people have to understand is posting it on Facebook is not the same thing as making a police report. Once someone finally made the call to us, our investigation began and the situation was handled.”

Anderson said the names of those allegedly involved are not being released at this time because the acts are believed to be part of a bigger case.

“We are still investigating and believe there is more to the story,” he said. “But we’ll get to the bottom of it. I do want to stress that everyone should still lock their vehicles. Not doing that makes you more likely to be a victim of something like this. The targets of these break-ins were all unlocked. There was no forcible entry into any of the vehicles.”

Even though Anderson said at the meeting there had been an arrest, Jackson Newspapers later clarified with him that no arrests had taken place. He said individuals were detained for questioning and released without charges pending further investigation.

The chief also informed council that the countywide Special Response Team is now fully certified. This group comprised of members of the Ripley Police Department, Ravenswood Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office will be specially trained to deal with emergency situations and any threat to the county.

The last budget revision of the fiscal year was approved by council. Tom Armstead, city clerk, said that most of the fund adjustment was to cover the city police.

“We now have a full force,” he said. “So salaries had to be addressed.”

Mayor Carolyn Rader expressed praise for the city’s police in their quick response to the burglaries, but also spoke of another incident that impressed her.

“I can honestly say our police chief and his sergeant saved a young lady’s life,” Rader said. “This person came to me desperately asking for help for her addiction. I immediately put her in contact with our police and I am happy to report that the chief and sergeant stepped up with no hesitation. She is now in rehab and has a chance for a better life. Our police do so much more than catch the bad guys.”

As in most council meetings, the sewer project was a topic of discussion.

Armstead shared that he had submitted a request to Senators Shelly Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for $3 million each for the ongoing plan. This money, if approved, would come from Congressional directed spending which lawmakers use to fund much needed projects in their states.

Some sidewalk and road repairs are being completed, while others are closer to getting started.

Matt Anderson, project chairman, reported that Church Street sidewalks and the road on the bridge leading to Walmart are nearly done.

“We have received a lot of appreciation for that road repair,” Anderson said. “It’s been a problem for a long time.”

Anderson and city attorney Kevin Harris said that the right-of-way issues with Titan Propane are almost finalized. This is the last step needed before the sidewalk leading to Walmart can be addressed.

The young people hired during the meeting to be city pool workers, including lifeguards, will see an increase in their pay to $9.50 per hour. The pool will have its free day on June 10. Normal hours of operation will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon-5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from noon-8 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Cost is $4 per person but is free for ages 3 and under. Tonia Criser will continue as pool manager with Helen Sharp as assistant.

A number of Ripley High School students were honored by Rader and council members, Carolyn Waybright, John McGinley, Danny Martin, Bryan Thompson and Recorder David Casto. Council member Rick Buckley was absent.

The Ripley High School robotics teams were recognized and presented with certificates. The two teams competed in the state robotics championships, with one qualifying for 2021 Remote VEX Robotics World Championships. The world championship had 30 countries participating and over 40 states. The Ripley High School team placed ninth in the competition.

Ripley High School’s robotics teams, along with coach Melissa Lough, were honored by Ripley City Council.

Coach Melissa Lough said that she had learned as much from her students as they had from her. With the entire team, with the exception of one, graduating this year, Lough still has hopes of success next year.

“I’ve heard that a lot of students are interested in being part of the team,” she said.

Before adjourning, council members approved a contract for $3,045.38 for fire alarm maintenance.

The next meeting will be June 15 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.