De­ter­ring car break-ins a mat­ter of sim­ple ac­tions

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Kevin Myrick SJ Editor

It re­mains a long­time prob­lem for all com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­days.

Usu­ally for lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments, they’ll have a sit­u­a­tion like this oc­cur: a se­ries of com­plaints will be made in a sub­di­vi­sion or on a street where Peo­ple go to bed one night hav­ing left valu­able pos­ses­sions in their cars, and wake up the next morn­ing re­port­ing to of­fi­cers that ev­ery­thing is gone.

Wal­lets full of iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion and credit cards and cash, ex­pen­sive elec­tron­ics and in sev­eral in­stances, hand­guns have all been taken in past the from cars.

“One time we even had a lady re­port a $1,500 purse stolen from her car,” said Rock­mart Po­lice Chief Keith Sor­rells.

One rea­son why this keeps hap­pen­ing ac­cord­ing to Sor­rells and other lo­cal chiefs is sim­ple. Peo­ple aren’t lock­ing their cars.

“Peo­ple need to re­al­ize that we don’t live in May­berry,” Sor­rells said. “If they want to keep their be­long­ings safe, they need to not keep them in the car, and they need to keep their cards locked up.”

The num­bers speak for them­selves. Be­tween 2015 and now, there have been 484 break-ins com­bined re­ported to the Cedar­town and Polk County Po­lice De­part­ments. Rock­mart num­bers weren’t im­me­di­ately avail­able at press time. But of all those en­ter­ing au­to­mo­bile cases re­ported since 2015, many of those come from peo­ple not lock­ing their cars, and thieves be­ing able to en­ter with­out any work on their part.

Ac­cord­ing to Cedar­town Po­lice Chief Jamie New­some, the fig­ures go up and down year to year as groups tar­get spe­cific ar­eas, check­ing doors of cars to see if they are un­locked, then rum­mag­ing through ve­hi­cle in­te­ri­ors in the mid­dle of the night in hopes of find­ing valu­ables of all kinds. For in­stance, In Polk County there were 121 en­ter­ing auto com­plaints in 2015, but over the past two years those num­bers have de­creased to just 63 in 2017, and 57 so far for this year.

In Cedar­town, those num­bers were 114 in 2015, just 42 in 2016, and as of press time 87 in 2017.

“Of­ten times these crimes come in spurts,” New­some said. “We will have a pe­riod where we have none and then over one night we will have many on one street. If you en­vi­sion the way this crime gen­er­ally oc­curs, it is ob­vi­ous why they come in spurts. The num­bers do no stay con­sis­tent like other crimes might be ex­pected to year to year.”

Though spe­cific Rock­mart num­bers weren’t avail­able, Sor­rells said there have been dozens of cases in his de­part­ment over the last years, and ar­eas tar­geted by thieves have shifted in the city lim­its as well.

The de­part­ments do work to stop the prob­lem. New­some re­ported ag­gres­sive en­force­ment by his of­fi­cers to ob­tain ar­rests in Cedar­town in re­cent weeks, ac­cord­ing to his most re­cent re­port to the City Com­mis­sion last week when the is­sue came up.

“My night shift pa­trol made some ag­gres­sive en­force­ment in that area try­ing to ad­dress that, and we re­cently be­cause of that ag­gres­sive en­force­ment and be­cause of a prompt call by a ci­ti­zen to 911, we were able to make 2 ar­rests there last week­end. We didn’t nec­es­sar­ily tie them to any of those en­ter­ing of au­tos, be­cause they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily have any of those things on them,” New­some said.

“But four bur­glar­ies were solved with that one ar­rest due to the things we were able to tie into it,” he added.

Rock­mart and Polk County po­lice are work­ing to fight the is­sue as well.

But their work to pa­trol and keep an eye out is all for noth­ing with­out the cit­i­zens help­ing.

Law en­force­ment wants lo­cal res­i­dents to first and fore­most keep track of the se­rial num­bers of all items they deem valu­able and im­por­tant, so if they are stolen they can be tracked if sold at pawn shops.

“Some­times those num­bers can be the most im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion we can gain about who is do­ing this,” Sor­rells said.

Most im­por­tant though, the big­gest thing that peo­ple can do to help pre­vent the is don’t keep valu­ables in plain sight or not in the car at all, and to lock their car doors at all times.

“It is a thing that hap­pens, and it hurts my heart that peo­ple break into folks cars, but most of those, the su­per ma­jor­ity of those, are un­locked cars,” New­some said. “That’s not de­fend­ing the crim­i­nal, but that’s to say that cer­tain tar­geted mea­sures would help us.”

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