ROANE COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT)--A spate of burglaries has people across Roane County on edge. Shop owners told us thieves are targeting convenience stores and tobacco shops, looking for cash and whatever they can sell.
T has run T's Tobacco Shop for 6 years. He said crime's going up because the economy's going down.
"When you don't have any jobs or any way to support the community, it causes some bad news and that's what we get around here," he said.
Bad news that seems to have gotten worse, as the county battles a rising drug problem.
Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said "I would say, certainly, that drugs is the driving factor behind thefts and burglaries. People trying to feed their drug habit."
T was robbed three years ago. A group of teenagers ripped out his air conditioner and climbed through the hole, making off with $10k worth of tobacco products. Besides upgrading his security system, T, like many people around in the area, said he's ready in case they ever come back.
"We're very well protected. I'll say that...." he said.
We asked Oliver Springs resident LC Jones if the crime in his area concerns him.
"It don't bother me, because I got a gun and I'll shoot them," he told us.
Arming themselves, in case law enforcement can't get there in time. The county is about 300 square miles. For an 80 man sheriff's department, that's a lot of ground to cover.
Chief Deputy Phillips added, "In the areas where we're having issues with burglaries and thefts we try to saturate that area, put extra people in that area, and try to target the people that we think are responsible. We try to get them locked up, get them put in jail."
Last year Roane County law enforcement handled more than 600 burglaries and thefts. T said things haven't gotten any better.
"We need to get this crime rate down to make it comfortable and safe for everybody in our county," he said.
And, he added, some of the burden falls on the citizens.
"Either we give [law enforcement] enough resources to get competent people to do the job, or we can just let it stay the way it is."
The Roane County Sheriff's Department said they're working together with law enforcement in surrounding counties to combat crime.