Alto hit by lawlessness again: vandals strike downtown businesses

ALTO, TX (KTRE) - Two days after an attempted bank hold-up in Alto, authorities are chasing leads on a string of Thursday night burglaries.

According to the Cherokee County Sheriff, vandals targeted four Alto businesses overnight within a three-block area. A lock had been cut on the fence gate at the Duplichain contractor yard. Sheriff James Campbell said a company pickup truck had been stolen and it appeared someone tried unsuccessfully to fill the vehicle with gas. Over at the Donut Palace, soda was reported stolen. The front doors at the Alto Library and feed store were also kicked-in, but nothing was taken.

No suspects have been named, but deputies are investigating a tip received early Friday.

The proximity of the break-ins and the nature of the damage lead Campbell to believe the suspects may be teenagers. He is not certain if the truck theft is connected to the other incidents.

In the past 24 hours, seven out of the 18 calls to the Sheriff's Office have related to the town of Alto. Campbell said he does not believe the recent surge in criminal activity is connected to the recent dismissal of the five-man Alto Police Department. "Locks on the doors keep the honest people out. It seems these [suspects] would have done it anyway."

On June 15, officers and the chief were furloughed indefinitely while the city struggles with budget issues. Law enforcement in the city limits is now the responsibility of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. "If a year ago you would have told me Alto wouldn't have a police department, I wouldn't believe you," said Campbell. "It's certainly unnerving for residents." Campbell said two units were patrolling the Alto and Wells areas overnight. Those patrols will continue this weekend.

Earlier this week a Family Dollar store was also burglarized.

On Wednesday, three men and one woman were arrested for trying to rob the Bancorp South branch in downtown Alto. Authorities said the four never made it inside the lobby because the bank had already closed for the day. Cherokee County Sheriff's deputies and Rusk Police captured the group after a high-speed chase to the Rusk city limits on Highway 69.

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