The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office has arrested a suspect in a string of burglaries in the Bingen-White Salmon area.
On May 3, KCSO law enforcement personnel, with the assistance of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department, arrested Chad Wang, 22, of White Salmon.
"He was linked to the crimes through witnesses. People came forward and gave us some information that we believe to be credible," said Klickitat County Sheriff Chris Mace.
Wang is facing four counts of alleged burglary in the second degree and four counts of alleged theft in the first degree. Two of the charges were in connection with the unlawful entry to two businesses in the Bingen-White Salmon area: the Eagles club and McCoy's Video. The other two charges were connected to break-ins at residences in the Strawberry Mountain/El Camino Real area.
The burglaries Wang is being charged with took place between late 2004 and early 2005.
John Mooney, one of the residents whose home was burglarized, said he was pleased to hear an arrest had been made in the case.
"I'm happy about that," Mooney said. "But I don't know if anything of mine is going to be recovered."
Mooney added that he hoped the Klickitat County Commissioners would find a way to provide more money for law enforcement operations in the county.
"Maybe if these burglaries keep happening and it's brought up a couple times a month how out of control this is, the County Commissioners will find the money somewhere," he said.
Despite the arrest, law enforcement officials continue to be kept busy with new burglaries. Over the May 6-8 weekend, another two businesses in the county, as well as a church, were hit by a thief or thieves.
According to KCSO officials, two Bingen businesses -- Beneventi's Pizza and the Hunsaker Oil/Tesoro gas station -- were burglarized late Friday or early Saturday. A safe was stolen from the pizza shop. The Methodist Church in Lyle was broken into late Saturday or early Sunday.
Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Rich Cortese said a glass door was broken to gain access to the gas station, while a door was forced open at Beneventi's. In both cases, undetermined amounts of cash were taken.
Understandably, those impacted by the break-ins and the damage they caused were not happy.
"It takes a very low class and stupid person to break into the house of the Lord," commented Barbara Sexton, a Lyle resident and member of the church.
Cortese advised business owners not to leave cash at their place of business overnight.
"Even though it's a little bit of a hassle for them, it's not worth the risk," he explained.
The weekend before last, April 29-May 1, another three businesses were hit, including Time Out Pizza in Trout Lake, the BZ Corner Transfer Station, and the Mormon Church in White Salmon.
"It has just been continuous," said KCSO Deputy Ken MacDonald. "This has been going on for over a year now. It's ridiculous."
MacDonald added that the most recent break-ins appear to fit the profile of the earlier crimes.
Cortese said he is confident the department will be able to solve the most recent weekend's cases soon.
"We do have some good leads that we're investigating," he said.
No one has yet been charged in the most conspicuous of the recent string of burglaries in the community -- the break-in at Columbia High School, which took place in early April. In that case, burglars used a cutting torch to open a large safe in the school's main office.
Mace said the investigations are tedious.
"It just takes time," he explained. "The guys really worked hard on this. Property crimes are tough to solve, unless you catch them with the stuff right away. We're not having a lot of luck recovering property because so much time has gone by."
KCSO is continuing the investigation into the series of burglaries, and further arrests are anticipated.
"There is still a lot more investigating and interviewing to be done," Mace said.