Neighbors in Chaparral say their town is under siege by criminals

Claim they have been left unprotected by law enforcement, forced to take up arms

A lawless Chaparral? ABC-7 speaks with residents

CHAPARRAL, New Mexico - Crimes against residents of the town of Chaparral are on the rise.

Dona Ana County sheriff's deputies confirm home invasions, burglaries and thefts have been increasing over the past few months, but residents say law enforcement officials have not been doing anything to curb the crimes.

"You've got a community that's now scared," Pastor Richard Plock said. "The burglaries are now rampant."

Pastor Plock leads the local First Baptist Church among other community outreach programs in Chaparral.  His charity thrift store has been hit by thieves -- the same as dozens of his neighbors' homes he said.

Pastor Plock said the bold criminals have no regard for when or where they hit, sometimes breaking into homes in the middle of the day while residents are at home.

"You've got a 25-year-old kid cranked up on dope break into your house, what're you going to do," Pastor Plock said. "You either shoot him or you run."

The town of Chaparral is divided -- literally.  Part of Chaparral lies in Otero County, and another in Dona Ana County.

Chaparral does not have a police department so law enforcement is completely in the hands of the two counties' sheriff's departments.

Otero County Sheriff Benny House said he did not know the crime had gotten out-of-control in Chaparral. Dona Ana County Sheriff's deputies admit the town is hard to police.

"The Chaparral area with us is difficult to work because of the proximity to the border of Texas and being in a very extreme corner of our county," Dona Ana County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Renaud said.

Chaparral is located more than 75 miles from the Otero County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Alamogordo and more than 35 miles from the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Las Cruces.

"We definitely have a lot of problems," crime victim and Chaparral resident Joe Mazzozzhi said. " We're treated like the stepchild here."

FBI investigators called ABC-7 after promos for Wednesday night's story had been airing this week.  Agents told ABC-7's Matt Dougherty they currently have several very active ongoing investigations happening in Chaparral.  

The FBI is asking that anyone with any information on crimes taking place in Chaparral to call them: (575) 526-2351.

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