Champaign County Sheriff Deputy Erich Hopkins received a certificate of appreciation last week for followup work on a criminal case from earlier this year.
The award was presented Oct. 20 by Union Township Trustee Ron Williams on behalf of the Union Township Trustees.
“On behalf of the people of the township, the trustees at the last meeting decided we wanted to recognize the sheriff’s department, but especially Deputy Hopkins for really making this thing happen,” Williams said. “We wanted to do that to really show our appreciation.”
According to a court statement filed in the Champaign County Municipal Court, Hopkins was dispatched to Williams’ residence on Jan. 29 in reference to a Jan. 27 incident.
Williams informed Hopkins that he was approached by a man at his residence. Williams had been advised by his neighbors that a male subject had been knocking on doors on Pisgah Road.
The man advised Williams that he was on hard times and needed to borrow money to get his daughter’s vehicle towed. The statement notes Williams recognized the male subject and that he did not believe the subject was who he said he was.
Williams documented what the male told him on a receipt and agreed to loan him $50 if he would be repaid the next day. He was later advised that the male subject was Tony L. Craig.
Williams said Hopkins followed up on the information and law enforcement learned Craig committed similar crimes throughout the county. Hopkins said at least four people were affected by Craig’s actions and around $800 was taken.
Craig was charged with multiple theft charges and placed on community control for three years in May. A contempt warrant was issued against him on Oct. 22 according to the municipal court’s website.
Williams said it was because of Hopkins’ work that a conviction was brought against Craig.
“What upset people the most is unwanted guests on their property at all hours and different times of the day,” Williams said. “That’s unusual in our township because we try to watch out for our people.”
Champaign County Sheriff Matt Melvin said sheriff department programs such as the Farm Watch and the Sheriff and Citizens Expanding Neighborhood Eyes or S.C.E.N.E. program are key in catching people attempting to commit similar crimes.
The Farm Watch is an effort aimed at promoting communication between law enforcement and the farm community. The S.C.E.N.E. program asks participating homeowners and businesses to provide surveillance video footage in certain situations.
Hopkins said this kind of theft is becoming more common than it has ever been in the past.
Melvin advised that residents should not hesitate to contact the sheriff’s office if a person comes to their door asking for money. He added no tip is too small to help.
“We just went through this with a drug investigation,” Melvin said. “It starts with a small tip that the detectives and road guys work on and it just builds up from there, gives us probable cause to do a further investigation.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.