CHILDERSBURG — If residents believe the community has been victimized by burglaries in recent months, they are not alone. While it may seem like little consolation, many cities and towns across the South fell victim to burglaries in 2012.
An FBI press release Jan. 14 indicated that for the first six months of 2012, cities with populations under 10,000 saw a 2.5 percent increase in burglaries. This is a significant increase when compared to the general trend for burglaries during the same period in the South, which saw a 4.4 percent decrease.
The national trend in burglaries since 2008 has seen decreases in burglaries, yet for the first six months of 2012 there has been a 1.2 percent increase in burglaries nationwide, a time period when crime in all categories appeared to be rising.
While the average loss per burglary from January through June 2012 is not available, the average loss in 2011 was $2,185 per offense.
Paul E. Daymond, Public Affairs specialist with the Birmingham Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, wrote in an email that caution must be taken when using such statistics.
“Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents,” he said. “Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.”
Childersburg Police Department investigator Sgt. Donald Elkins seems to confirm the statistics.
“Every town in America is seeing an increase,” Elkins said. “If you go to any conferences and talk with other agencies, you often hear towns are being torn up with burglaries.”
Businesses along a half-mile distance between 1st Street and Alabama 235 (Plant Road) have been targeted since January 2012 with the burglary of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a rash of burglaries since last Thanksgiving.
Since Thanksgiving, burglars have targeted businesses in a half-mile stretch along the U.S. 280 corridor from the intersection of 280 and 1st Street to the intersection of 280 and Alabama 235. One restaurant, Tierra Caliente, has been hit twice, with one, possibly two, attempts foiled by Childersburg police officers.
Manager Jose Medina said he is both upset and scared about the recent rash of burglaries.
“We are like family,” Medina said.
He said he is concerned not only for his business but his patrons as well.
He said he has no idea why his restaurant has been broken into so often.
“I think it is the same guy,” Medina said. “Four times he has used a rock to break the glass in the doors.”
Tierra Caliente was first broken into Dec. 13 when thieves stole four flat screen TVs, the cash register, $400, and three bottles of top-shelf tequila. Damages and stolen items totaled more than $6,000.
The side door was broken into twice. Insurance paid for the first break-in but Medina had to pay out-of-pocket to repair damages and replace stolen items.
To eliminate further break-ins through the side door, Medina said he just removed the door and walled in the area.
Even though he remodeled, he said he has had the front door broken into twice.
Another recent incident involved an attempted burglary at the Pit Stop.
Suspect Jeremy Antonio McGinnis was arrested Jan. 17 when he was met by three Childersburg officers as he exited The Pit Stop.
“McGinnis sat on the ground and offered no resistance,” Lt. Doug Wesson said.
Other burglaries during the same time span included Olde Town Grille at 50 River Run Road and two burglaries at River Pointe Apartment Homes on the 100 block of River Run Road. Two storage units had locks cut off, and there have been reports of breaking and entering vehicles parked at businesses.
While tools, lawn mowers and jewelry have been stolen, thieves are targeting electronic devices such as TVs and game consoles.
“They’re taking them and selling them to someone that wants a TV for a hundred dollars,” Wesson said.
Mayor B.J. Meeks said he has received complaints from residents in the last week.
“We are going to revisit what we’ve done that was successful in the past,” Meeks said. “We are going to get real aggressive.”
Some remedies Meeks said that may be employed is changing patrol patterns by local patrol officers and employing civilians patrol looking for possible problems.
“They won’t have weapons,” Meeks said, “but will have cell phones to call officers.”
Meeks said he was aware of increased burglaries in other areas.
“My main concern is for our citizens,” Meeks said.
Both Wesson and Elkins stressed that business owners should invest in alarm systems and a good video system.
Elkins said some video systems don’t capture good images and it is difficult to identify suspects. On another occasion Elkins said the image from a good system was so clear that a suspect was apprehended shortly after the burglary.
He also suggested that keeping good records would assist in the recovery of stolen items, especially in residential areas.
Daymond wrote, “It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. The efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control.”
Anyone with information regarding these incidents and other crimes should call investigators at 256-378-5747.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.