With 10 burglaries in one weekend in Talladega and allegations of more than 100 recent break-ins in the Munford area, the idea of a burglary epidemic is becoming common. The Daily Home surveyed various law enforcement agencies in Talladega and St. Clair counties and found no real pattern. From Jan. 1 to the present, burglaries were up in most jurisdictions, although numbers from Pell City were flat and Sylacauga and Riverside were down slightly compared with the same period last year.
The claim of 100 burglaries in Munford is exaggerated, but not by much. “It’s not just Munford that’s being affected by burglaries,” Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said, although more were in the north end of the county than the south end. “We’ve had 98 burglaries countywide between Jan. 1 and April 15,” as opposed to 89 in 2011 and 80 in 2012. Kilgore said many of these burglaries will involve repeat offenders, and pointed out that drug crimes and property crimes often go hand in hand.
“It’s frustrating for the citizens and for law enforcement,” Kilgore said. “We burn the midnight oil to catch these people. They go through the court system, serve time in prison, get released and keep doing the same things that got them there in the first place. I can assure our citizens in Munford and throughout the county that our investigators are working overtime to develop leads and identify potential suspects. We’re hopeful we’ll achieve results through our diligent investigation.”
The city of Talladega showed a 90 percent increase for the period between Jan. 1 and April 10, from 94 in 2012 to 176 this year. Burglary arrests are also up for the period, from 14 last year to 21 this year. According to Police Chief Alan Watson, that figure represents 21 individuals charged with burglary. Many, if not most, were charged with multiple counts, although it was not possible to say how many of the 176 cases have been closed by arrest. As this story is being written, an arrest has been made in another home burglary from the period.
In a prepared statement, Watson wrote, “During different parts of the year, burglaries increase and decrease. As to an epidemic, I don’t know if I would call it (that). I would, however, state that we are experiencing a large amount of burglaries. Compared to last year during the same time frame, we are experiencing a 90 percent increase in all burglaries. As all law enforcement agencies will tell you, burglaries such as we are going through now are sporadic and generally occur when certain groups of individuals collaborate to cause havoc in our communities. As of April 12 (however), several arrests have been made by us and Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, which reduced our burglaries to one this (last) entire weekend.”
He continued, “Our numbers and individuals we have arrested for many of these burglaries indicate a large number of repeat offenders. They are either out on bond awaiting trial or are on probation from the state Department of Corrections (after) they only served, in many cases, less than one year in jail.”
The burglary rate in Lincoln nearly doubled from the period between Jan. 1 and April, 10 2012, and this year, jumping from 22 to 41. But Police Chief Travis McGrady said the increase was driven largely by an expansion of the city’s police jurisdiction.
“Our police jurisdiction almost doubled due to the new census, and that accounts for the difference,” he said.
Several of the cases that Lincoln is investigating this year would have been handled by the sheriff’s office and other agencies last year.
Police Capt. Mike Brewer said the Police Department started a Facebook page in January.
“We saw Facebook pages from other police departments in the area that let the community know what is happening,” he said. “We recently posted three burglary pictures taken from a surveillance camera in hopes that someone would recognize the person or vehicle in the pictures and call in.”
Brewer said posting the burglary photos has been successful, and investigators now have several names of potential suspects.
“We plan to continue this anytime we can get surveillance pictures and don’t have a known suspect,” he said.
Brewer said no arrests have been made yet.
In Childersburg, there was a 50 percent increase in all burglaries reported for the period between January and March 2012 to the same period in 2013, from 20 to 30.
“Every town in America is seeing an increase,” Investigator Sgt. Donald Elkins said.
“If go to any conferences and talk with other agencies, you often hear towns are being torn up with burglaries.”
A trend in recent weeks in Childersburg has been a subtle shift from commercial to residential burglaries.
According to a graph provided by Sylacauga Police Chief Chris Carden, reported burglaries rose 6 percent between 2011 and 2012, with the percentage of solved burglaries up 1 percent during the same period. For the first quarter of those two years, there was a 26 percent increase, followed by a 53 percent drop for the first quarter of 2013. Of the 36 cases reported in the first quarter of this year, two were closed as of this week.
Carden wrote that “the 53 percent decrease is a bit misleading, the actual percentages will not be available until the end of the year. There is no real cause or time of year the burglaries will rise, other than the normal summer increase. Obviously when people are on vacation, gone out of town, etc., their chances are increased, but people take vacations year round.”
He added, “It has been my experience that burglary is one of the hardest crimes to solve. The Police Department constantly needs the public’s help in identifying suspected burglars. Generally there will be a rash of burglaries, we will wind up making an arrest of a suspect for another crime and the burglaries suddenly cease. Tying suspects to each individual crime scene can become very problematic.”
Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver reported a decrease in reported burglaries, but the decrease was from three to two.
Two arrests were made in the 2012 burglaries, and both of the 2013 burglaries remain open.
The figures for Pell City remained flat, with 19 burglaries reported to police in the first quarter of 2012 and 2013.
According to Police Chief Greg Turley, burglaries tend to increase between October and December.
“We see burglaries start to drop off starting in the months of April and May,” he said.
Turley said generally burglaries take longer to solve than other crimes, “but if you solve one burglary, you generally solve many” because most suspects are implicated in more than one crime.
Detectives often have to work backwards to solve these cases, often starting with a local pawn shop or an individual who has purchased stolen merchandise. Pell City police also work with other law enforcement agencies, including those in Talladega County, to solve these crimes.
What you can do
There are some recurring themes coming from the various departments regarding what citizens can do to discourage burglaries and help solve the ones that do happen. Kilgore, Oliver, Carden and Turley all emphasized the need to be vigilant and keep an eye out for strange people, vehicles or activities. They also recommended forming Neighborhood Watch groups.
Kilgore said it is important to secure all locks, windows and vehicles while keeping the outside of your home well lit, while Watson advised trying to make it look like someone was at home when you are away.
Kilgore also emphasized the importance of being forthcoming with all information when making a report, even if it might seem trivial or irrelevant.
Elkins recommended keeping a record of model and serial numbers for electronics and detailed descriptions of jewelry and other valuables.
Turley also recommends use of social media, and he, Carden and Elkins said use of game cameras and other video systems are becoming more common. If the cameras are to be useful, they will need to be able to film at fairly high quality.
Daily Home staff writers Chris Norwood, David Atchison, Emily Adams, Shane Dunaway, Elsie Hodnett and Mark Ledbetter contributed to this report.