Blytheville business owners offering reward to catch smash-and-grab crooks

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BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. -- Business owners in downtown Blytheville are joining forces to stop crime.

During May, a rash of smash-and-grab break-ins have happened to several businesses on Main Street.

The bad guys have been moving too fast for police to catch them in the act, and the mess they're leaving behind is causing added expense and headaches for business owners.

"Our grandfather started this store in 1916 on this same corner. We're third generation and been in the business since we were kids," said Ben Hubbard.

Hubbard, co-owner of Hubbard and Hoke Furniture on Main Street in Blytheville, doesn't believe his grandfather ever envisioned the store being vandalized and robbed three times in three days.

"On a Tuesday night we had a break-in at 11:30. We boarded it up, they did it again at 3:30. We came back in and boarded it up again," said Hubbard.

Hubbard said two days later, there was another break-in, and this time furniture was taken.

Hubbard and Hoke Furniture isn't the only casualty of these break-ins, which are plaguing downtown Blytheville.

Pat's Beauty Supply, Day's clothing and two other businesses have all been vandalized and robbed during May.

Diane's Boutique was only open six days before it was hit.

"They came through this window right here. They busted the window and shattered it," said Diane Moss, owner of Diane' s Boutique.

While a lot of purses, shoes and clothing were taken during the two break-ins, Moss said she lost something more valuable - her faith in people.

"I was just devastated, you know. How you just put all your money into trying to beautify a place and then somebody comes by and tries to tear up what you have," said Moss.

Police haven't been able to catch the thieves, who seem to strike just after patrol cars pass through the downtown area,s o business owners are posting a $1,000 reward.

The Greater Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce is meeting Tuesday night to give downtown business owners tips on ways to improve security.

Chamber Executive Director Liz Smith said the Chamber has pumped more than $200,000 into the downtown area to help businesses come in and to improve.

Smith said the Chamber is committed to helping in any way it can.

"It's very important to us as a community that our merchants have the opportunity to prosper. And that they have the opportunity in a safe environment," said Smith.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Chamber office in Blytheville for all downtown merchants. You don't have to be a Chamber of Commerce member to attend the meeting.