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Summerville has been fighting increased crime

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Burglaries have been rising in Augusta for at least the past five years, and one of the city's most prestigious neighborhoods reflects that trend.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he recommends residents arm themselves and take action in a similar situation.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he recommends residents arm themselves and take action in a similar situation.

In a summer already rife with violent acts, Friday's early morning killing of a burglar by one of Summerville's most prominent residents -- Judge Carlisle Overstreet -- illustrates the area's plight.

From 2005 to 2009, burglaries in Richmond County have increased from 2,808 to 3,243, according to sheriff's office statistics

Since 2005, 255 burglaries and 34 robberies have occurred in Summerville -- an area roughly bordered by Highland Avenue on the west, Heard Avenue on the east, Wrightsboro Road on the south and Cumming Road on the north.

This year is already on track to surpass 2009, with 39 incidents through August. There were 44 total last year.

Attorney Joe Neal Jr., the president of the Summerville Neighborhood Association, said residents have employed text-alerts, e-mail chains and neighborhood watches in an attempt to quell the crime.

Neal said burglaries and break-ins have put the residents on edge, echoing Sheriff Ronnie Strength's assertion at a news conference on the shooting Friday that people shouldn't hesitate to defend themselves in their homes.

"I can tell you right now if someone walks inside my house, I'm going to blow their head off," Neal said. "If someone is in the house, he is asking to get shot and the law gives them every right to pull the trigger."

Home invasions aren't particularly common, but they can be one of the most intrusive and frightening types of crime.

Most often they are the result of drug-related crime and pre-planned, Sgt. Calvin Chew told a Chronicle reporter in a July story on the subject. Random home invasions are rare and usually the result of a bungling burglar entering a home he thought was empty, Chew said.

That is what investigators think happened Friday morning when at least two men smashed their way into Overstreet's Cumming Road home and stole a laptop computer.

Strength said the apparent disregard by the burglars to muffle the sound of their entry and the fact that Overstreet's vehicle was out of sight in the garage makes it likely they had no idea the judge was at home asleep.

David Dunagan, the chairman of the Summerville Crime Watch Committee, said he received a call Friday morning from a woman living at Monte Sano Street and Walton Way who said a white man in his early 20s had been spotted in her backyard Thursday evening. She notified police, who were unable to track him down.

Dunagan, who handles the neighborhood's alerts, said residents were very concerned after the news of the home invasion. Though burglaries are not rare in the area, home invasions are.

He said one-third of the 2,400 Summerville homes have been receiving e-mail and text alerts since the program started in January.

The association released its quarterly newsletter Monday, the cover featuring a black-and-white photo of six gun-carrying men from the 1890s -- the neighborhood's first crime watch.

"Basically there's been crime up here forever," Neal said. "They took it serious back then and we take it serious now. It's come full circle."

Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this article.

Georgia gun laws

1. Who can have a gun?

- Any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a handgun may carry a gun on private property, home, a motor vehicle or place of business without a license.

- If the gun is loaded while being carried, it must be carried in an open and fully exposed manner.

- Any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a handgun can carry any gun as long as it is enclosed in a case and unloaded.

Source: Senate Bill 308, passed by Georgia Legislature in 2010 session, signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue on June 4

2. When can you use your gun?

Georgia law outlines three instances when deadly force can be used:

- Defense from a forcible felony: If you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to yourself or a third person. You are not justified if you are the aggressor.

- Defense of habitation: If a person breaks into your home in a violent or tumultuous manner and you think the intruder is going to assault you or someone living there. Deadly force is also legal if someone breaks into a home and you know it's not a lawful entry or if you know the deadly force would prevent the person from committing a felony.

- Defense of property (other than habitation): Deadly force cannot be used to protect property, unless it will prevent a forcible felony from occurring.

Source: The Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-3


1. When can you use deadly force?

- You must believe you are in imminent danger of death or harm.

- If you believe you are in such danger, you can use deadly force only if a reasonable or prudent man of ordinary firmness and courage would have believed himself to be in such danger.

- You are without fault in bringing on the difficulty

- You had no other probable means of avoiding the danger of losing your life or sustaining serious bodily harm

Before using deadly force, even in self-defense, you have a duty to retreat if you are:

- On a public street or highway

- In a store where the public is invited

Source: South Carolina Code of Laws

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Asitisinaug 08/21/10 - 03:51 am
The only way to really fight

The only way to really fight crime in our area is to DEMAND our judges issue real punishments. As we see in the paper daily, most violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, often they have many previous arrests and convictions. The law enforcement community continues to arrest the same people over and over for the same crimes which is a complete waist of resourses, dangerous for the officers and certainly bad for the communtiy. Yes, people do deserve a second chance for non-violent acts but not a 3rd, 4th or 15th chance. We not only give them way too many chances but we even hire them within the county to steal from the taxpayers, sell drugs while at work, etc. We MUST do something to have our voices heard and REMOVE liberal judges from office by any means necessary. Violent criminals deserve the full punishment of the law and repeat offenders deserve the full punishment without any chance of parole. These mamby pamby punishments of probation, etc. must be put to an end, especially for crimes against others or violent crimes. Enough is enough and if we really want change within our community we must send a strong message to our DA's office and our elected judges or nothing will ever change. The cops can arrest over and over and in most cases where they or a citizen are forced to shoot and kill the suspect, the suspect should have been behind bars for his previous cases where he was given multiple chances...Citizens deserve far better and that means all law abiding citizens from those living on the hill to those living in Cherry Tree Crossing. Bullets fly in Cherry Tree often as as we just saw again, more unnecessary deaths all because those out there doing the shooting were on probation or given lienancy for previous charges...put violent criminals behind bars and keep them there - help clean up our streets and reduce crime everywhere. At the very least, if you care, write a letter to each of our judges and our DA's office. More Richmond County Deputies on the beat would help as well as better salaries to attract more officers since RCSO have the lowest pay of all area local law enforcement agencies and compared to agencies their size in this state and comparable states their salaries and benefits are absolutely deplorable. However, more deputies will not solve the real problem and that is REPEAT OFFENDERS who are freed unnecessarily which must be stopped.

smartie 08/21/10 - 05:19 am
i agree, asitis. problem is,

i agree, asitis. problem is, when they're locked up, they become a financial liability. if they're on probation, well, then they can be ridiculed and belittled by a privatized probation service to collect money. i'm certain these monies get passed back around through system of lawyers, and judges, as well. as for the deputies salaries, they should be increased. maybe, richmond county should cut back on that school superintendents rediculous salary, and distribute it out to some others.

seenitB4 08/21/10 - 06:28 am
Crime rising in the last 5

Crime rising in the last 5 years ...does countyman know about this.

airbud7 08/21/10 - 07:04 am
I didn't know South Carolina

I didn't know South Carolina and Georgia gun laws were so different.(glad I live in Ga)

grinder48 08/21/10 - 07:56 am
The list of state gun laws in

The list of state gun laws in this article is incomplete, doesn't cover licensed gun carriers in the two states or reciprocity and recognition between the states. Be careful relying on AC for this kind of information. More info on

billyjones1949 08/21/10 - 08:46 am
Judge OVerstreet did the

Judge OVerstreet did the right thing. One more dreg of society off the street. I bet his partner is shaking somewhere and will probably not be too hard to find since the same types run together. As Sheriff strength said, "More people should arm themselves and take similar action". Just last week my neighbor hear a comotion in his back yard and found someone had climbed his fence. He confronted them with a shotgun and ran them off. Too bad the person did not attempt to come in his house so he could have done away with him.

Junket831 08/21/10 - 09:09 am
If we are serious about

If we are serious about quashing criminals there are several steps that are needed before there will be any significant decrease in crime. We need far more deputies on the streets on all shifts. Not one or two, but entire units. This will cost more, a lot more, Don Grantham had a good proposal to start addressing this need by adding a 1 cent sales tax but certain commissioners voted him down. I say let the voters decide.

Next we need far tougher sentencing laws. Judges should be taken out of the equation. The legislature should implement sentencing rules that are uniform and harsh. Harsh enough to send a message to the criminal community that government will no longer tolerate their behavior. First offenders for non violent crimes might get a fairly lenient sentence combined with a lot of community service. Second offense and you get 10 years with no parole. Third offense, 25 to life and hard labor, really hard labor. Any attempt by the judicial community to weaken these types of laws should be met with immediate impeachment.

Make no mistake about this, one of the reasons we have so many problems in this country is the legal community's ability to subvert the will of the people. Take that away from them and the criminal element will have no where to hide.

disssman 08/21/10 - 10:14 am
Maybe what we need is better

Maybe what we need is better management of the current hundreds of employees of the sheriffs office. A good start would be the reduction of the Phinizy facilities work force. I seriously doubt they need 95 people there. What they need is a deadly barrier that if crossed would be the last trip ( something like a mixture of electric and razor wire) an inmate would make. And why is the sheriff doing school patrols instead of the RCBOE? Dosen't the RCBOE have its own police force? Recently I know of a serious accident on Windsor Springs where at least 5 patrol cars were on the scene, and not a one of them was willing to direct traffic and they had a huge jam up of cars. What ever happened to the days of patrolmen being able and authorized to do all things related to police work? But don't get me wrong, if we need more officers then do it, but first we need to look internally at ways to do things smarter.

dani 08/21/10 - 10:29 am
What we also need is for

What we also need is for friends and families of the hoodlums to stop making excuses and covering for them. The police can only do so much. We, the residents, have an obligation also. Put the blame where it belongs, on the law-breaker.

Riverman1 08/21/10 - 11:29 am
This is starting to sound

This is starting to sound like the white farmers in Zimbabwe who band together and respond to attacks in unison.

The real cause of the majority of crime in America is drugs as apparently was the case here. Again, the war on drugs is not working. We need to legalize drugs and use the money saved on treatment programs and education of young people to avoid them. Read the writings of Judge Jim P. Grey to understand how prohibition of drugs is the worst thing the country has ever done.

By the way, Judge Overstreet did well. Always shoot to kill. If he had missed I doubt he would be alive today.

corgimom 08/21/10 - 12:33 pm
Yeah, seenit, I was wondering

Yeah, seenit, I was wondering the same thing about Countyman.

damejacqueline 08/21/10 - 01:45 pm
Yes, we certainly need more

Yes, we certainly need more deputies on the streets...I don't know what is wrong with our councilmen thinking about putting our deputies on furlough or downsizing the department; WE NEED OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS...and not only for these low-life criminals who bother people just for the hell of it, but also for these loose, wild four-legged dogs running around in neighborhoods attacking people. I used to be able to jog or walk on Greene Street, which is a nice neighborhood for exercising, but not anymore. I was attacked by a pack of 5 dogs last year, was treated with all kinds of shots and antibiotics for bites on my body; called animals services again and again and these same damn dogs are still running up and down Greene Street and that neighborhood. Maybe we can lock up the two-legged dogs with the four-legged dogs and let them be cell mates. They both have the same mentality.

chascush 08/21/10 - 03:22 pm
‘Before using deadly force,

‘Before using deadly force, even in self-defense, you have a duty to retreat if you are:’
In SC this does not apply if you are in your home or car.

laprince 08/21/10 - 05:56 pm
junket831 made the best

junket831 made the best comment so far, First offenders for non violent crimes might get a fairly lenient sentence combined with a lot of community service. Second offense and you get 10 years with no parole. Third offense, 25 to life and hard labor, really hard labor. Any attempt by the judicial community to weaken these types of laws should be met with immediate impeachment. Some do deserve a second chance because be in jail for the first time may be all it takes for some but over and over arrest, there is a problem.

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