GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY -

Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said Friday a string of break-ins involving holes cut or smashed into the walls of businesses are likely related.

The most recent burglary was reported early Friday morning at Poorman's Restaurant off Highway 264 East in Pitt County, according to deputies.

The business owner told us he discovered the hole in the back of the building.  He said the siding was pulled back and someone had broken through the wall and insulation.   

Investigators say it's the 12th break-in of this kind in the past 18 months in Pitt County.

"It's probably the same person," Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said. "We feel like we know more than one person is involved."

The last break-in before Friday happened earlier this week in Winterville. Sheriff Elks said the burglar(s) use tools like sledge hammers to break through the wall and gain access into the building. Several of the break-ins have also been reported in areas without neighborhoods, so there are few people nearby to witness the crime.

"It's very frustrating," Sheriff Neil Elks said. "We're going to get him, and we're going to get him fast because I'm after him now... The person is very smart," he said, "he knows how not to get caught."

Sheriff Elks said he is taking the investigation very seriously and is confident the person responsible for the crimes will be caught.

Deputies with the Pitt County Sheriff's office say a small amount of cash was taken from Poorboy's Restaurant. Ken Willoughby, the restaurant's owner, said he does not keep much cash on hand.

"Nobody was hurt and that's the most important thing," Willoughby said. "Cash can be replaced, but lives can't."

Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information on the break-ins.