BENSON – The Director of the Johnston County 911 Communications Center in Smithfield says two thieves who allegedly stole some of the grounding system from a 911 radio tower could have put the public in danger if communications had been disrupted.
On October 1, 2021, county employees discovered a hole had been cut in a fence and bolt cutters were used to remove copper ground wires from an emergency communications tower near Benson that provides radio communications to police, fire and EMS workers in southern Johnston County. Two suspects were later caught and charged.
“Johnston County 911 did unfortunately have a partial theft of the grounding system at our South Tower Site in Benson. Without the proper grounding in place on this tower, our equipment located on the tower and inside the facility would be at an enormous risk of electrical damage due to a lighting strike or a power surge. Proper grounding is vital to protecting the nearly $1.5 million dollars of equipment at that tower site,” 911 Director Brett Renfrow said.
“Beyond the loss of protection on the tower, this incident potentially put our ability to dispatch emergency calls to our citizens at risk, which is unacceptable. If the Benson area site were to have been taken down due to any damage as a result of the theft of the grounding system, notifications to our First Responders could have been delayed and put people’s lives in danger needlessly.”
“This incident cost the taxpayers of Johnston County in excess of $2,219.65 for the repairs and additional man hours to verify proper safe operation of the site. I would like to thank Sheriff Steve Bizzell and his staff for apprehending those believed to be responsible for the damage to our equipment,” Mr. Renfrow said.
Harvey Eugene Booth Jr., 61, of the 2100 block of Woods Crossroads Road, Benson was arrested October 14th and charged with three felony offenses.
Preston Shadrack Mayo, 39, of the 9300 block of Devil’s Racetrack Road, Four Oaks was arrested October 27th and charged with the same felony violations. In addition, Mayo was also charged with felony larceny for the September 20, 2021 theft of a $3,000 dirt bike taken from a residence in the 9100 block of Devil’s Racetrack Road. The owner of the dirt bike said it was stolen while he was out of town.