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Richmond County sees drop in burglaries

Officials credit undercover operation, special team

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The past month saw a significant decrease in the number of burglaries in Richmond County, and authorities point to two reasons: a recently completed undercover operation that led to dozens of arrests and a team formed specifically to stop such crimes.

“February is looking like the lowest number of burglaries since 2011,” said Richmond County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles.

The number of burglaries in February was 216, a 34 percent decrease from January, and the lowest total since March 2011.

Peebles attributes the decrease to Operation Smoke Screen, the sting made public last month that netted more than 80 arrests and hundreds of items stolen from the Augusta area, and the Burglary Suppression Team.

“When you take that many people off the streets it has to play a role,” Peebles said.

February marked the first anniversary of the burglary team, which was formed after authorities began seeing an increase in burglaries in mid-2010. For several months burglaries stayed in the 400s, said Lt. Jimmy Young.

After the team was officially formed in February 2011, the number dropped to 247. For most of the year, burglaries stayed consistently in the upper 200s to mid-300s. Operation Smoke Screen dropped the numbers further.

The eight uniformed members of the team spend their days going through the county’s neighborhoods looking for suspicious people.

Sgt. Harold Hitchcock, a member of the team, said they try to focus on troublesome areas but also patrol ones with less crime as a way to keep numbers from rising.

“The guys are working really hard,” Hitchcock said. “They’re stopping people in the neighborhoods, talking to citizens and have made a lot of arrests.”

Since the team’s inception, Hitchcock said he’s seen major improvements in many south Augusta neighborhoods that had been plagued with burglaries.

The drop is also easing the pain on the five burglary investigators whose desks were previously covered in stacks of reports.

“You only have so many hours in the day,” Young said. “When you get overwhelmed, it’s hard to give everything the attention it needs.”

Young said the drop has allowed investigators to give each case more attention and to spend more time in the community talking to victims.


A look at burglaries in Richmond County in the past 14 months:


January 358

February 247

March 231

April 270

May 294

June 300

July 270

August 298

September 327

October 334

November 345

December 333


January 326

February 216

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Patty-P 03/24/12 - 05:15 pm
Great. Unfortunately, when

Great. Unfortunately, when they get back out on probation the great majority go right back to doing the same thing. I guess it's good to clean things up a bit before Masters though. Don't want the guests to think bad of the place.

csraguy 03/24/12 - 06:10 pm
Patty, I couldn't agree more

Patty, I couldn't agree more about weak penalties from many judges. However, the past three operations, including the one just completed resulted in many criminals being taken off of the streets on federal charges. Part of the strategy from the RCSO was to involve outside agencies including the ATF and therefore, every single one of these repeat offenders that was in possession of a firearm was arrested on federal charges. These operations approved by Sheriff Strength and planned and carried out by Captain Peebles and many fine deputies of the RCSO and LEO’s from other agencies resulted in more than 50% of those arrested receiving Federal Charges. As a recent article pointed out about the closure of the last operation the majority of persons received 5yrs in Federal Prison of which you must serve 85% of your sentence before even being eligible for parole. This was a great strategy by the RCSO and others agencies and has resulted in violent crime being lowered over the past several years and assisted in the decline of burglaries in our area.

On top of that the 1 year old burglary task force has been working very well within the community, investigation suspicious persons, helping to deter burglars and lowering problems such as loitering, etc. as much as possible. Burglaries have dropped dramatically since the creation of this task force and getting over 100 more criminals off of the streets recently will help keep it in check for a while.

Even with greatly reduced budgets, major manpower shortages, reductions in the jail of almost $2,000,000.00 and the furlough days issued by the county, the RCSO is still showing very positive results for our community. If we could get the commissioners to make Public Safety a priority, as it should be, many other crimes could be greatly reduced.

double_standard 03/24/12 - 08:11 pm
Its a leap year. Peebles is a

Its a leap year. Peebles is a joke.

Patty-P 03/24/12 - 08:53 pm
Actually I think it was great

Actually I think it was great that he put this together, it's just that unless the criminals receive appropriate punishment, they usually just go back out and repeat. I wish they'd do something like this more often, closer to Christmas when they get the holiday surge.

AutumnLeaves 03/24/12 - 10:01 pm
Upsurge seemed to start

Upsurge seemed to start before Thanksgiving last year. Hope that was an anomaly.

Patty-P 03/24/12 - 11:13 pm
I think criminals do their

I think criminals do their shopping when everyone else does. They (burglars) know folks buy things before, during, and right after the holidays so they probably do more stealing then. Seems the 'busts' always come around this time so maybe the numbers reflect that, but they go right back up by fall.

Riverman1 03/25/12 - 03:06 am
Looks like February was a lot

Looks like February was a lot lower than Janurary last year, too. Maybe it's somehow related to the calendar.

nothin2show4it 03/25/12 - 06:51 am
Double standard must be

Double standard must be related to one of the other candidates. Or maybe he is one of the other candidates. Crime has gone down.

Maybe it is time to publish, in the newspaper, the judges performance; decisions, punishments, and repeats.

RunningMan 03/25/12 - 07:29 am
Great, bravo, outstanding,

Great, bravo, outstanding, more please...

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/26/12 - 10:33 am
“When you take that many

“When you take that many people off the streets it has to play a role,” Peebles said.

Don't worry. They'll be back out there soon enough.

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