Delaware County Sheriff's deputies are trying to piece together clues from a recent series of thefts and arsons involving propane tanks to determine if the incidents are related.
Sheriff's office spokeswoman Tracy Whited said deputies have responded to five incidents since June involving the theft or attempted ignition of propane tanks or gas cans.
All of the crimes have occurred in or near Liberty Township.
In two of the cases investigated by the sheriff's office and one investigated by Powell police, someone started a fire in an apparent attempt to ignite propane tanks.
"They have not, fortunately, (been successful), and I think that's just by the design of the propane tank," she said.
In some cases, Whited said, gasoline was poured on the tanks in an attempt to ignite them.
The first reported crime involving a propane tank occurred between 8 p.m. June 9 and 7 a.m. June 10 when someone set a trash can containing two propane tanks on fire at Liberty Middle School, according to sheriff's reports.
The most-recent crime related to a fuel can also occurred at an Olentangy school building. Someone broke into a shed at Scioto Ridge Elementary School and stole a metal gas can containing five gallons of gas, according to sheriff's reports.
In the other incidents:
• A man reported a five-gallon propane tank was stolen June 11 from the 9100 block of Wayne Brown Drive in Liberty Township.
• Powell police discovered a propane tank on the morning of June 30 in the 300 block of Village Park Drive.
They found a burnt stick and melted bottles near the tank.
• A woman reported suspicious activity to the sheriff's office after she saw a man standing by an electrical box the night of July 4 in the 3400 block of Bear Pointe Circle in Liberty Township.
The next morning, she found half-full cans of gas and propane near the box.
• A Powell man reported the theft of a propane tank that occurred between the night of July 28 and the morning of July 29 in the 300 block of Whetstone Drive East.
• Sheriff's deputies responded to a propane-tank fire about 10 p.m. Aug. 10 in the 3500 block of Bean-Oller Road in Concord Township. The Concord Township Fire Department extinguished the blaze.
Whited said officials are not certain the crimes are all related and no pattern has emerged.
"Our detective has been doing research on Instagram and YouTube to try to see if it's a fad," she said.
So far, however, Whited said authorities are stumped by the motive behind the crimes.
She said no law enforcement agencies in nearby jurisdictions, except Powell, have reported similar incidents this summer.
Whited said it's possible that a number of similar crimes have gone unreported.
Anyone with information about the crimes or similar incidents is asked to call the sheriff's office at 740-833-2831.