“We feel good about it,” Maj. Scott Peebles said. “We’ve put so much into reducing our burglaries.”
Statistics for 2012 showed 400 fewer burglary cases compared with 2011, which had 250 less reported burglaries than in 2010.
Authorities began to see an increase in the number of reported burglaries in 2010. The year ended with 3,869 burglary cases, a number that had been increasing for several years. But in February 2011, the Burglary Suppression Team was implemented with the goal of cutting down those numbers.
Lt. Pat Young said it has accomplished that.
“They’re able to do things regular deputies can’t do,” he said.
The eight-member team looks for suspicious activity in neighborhoods. Since its creation, only seven of 22 months through 2012 had more than 300 cases per month. In 2010, before the unit’s creation, there were eight months with more than 300 burglary cases.
The suppression team has helped cut into the heavy caseload of the five burglary investigators, allowing detectives more time to dedicate to their cases and beat neighborhoods.
“We’ve got a good core group of investigators,” Peebles said. “It’s probably one of the best groups we’ve had.”
Operation Smoke Screen, an undercover operation that ended in February 2011, helped drop the numbers further and resulted in more than 100 burglary-related arrests and the return of hundreds of stolen items.
Young said the sheriff’s office continues to look at other ways to continue the decline in burglary cases.
“We’re using any type of technology we can get our hands on,” he said.
Young said the crime scene unit has moved through its backlog and is processing information twice as fast. Residents are also playing a key role in the decline, as they are increasingly coming forward to report tips and assist in investigations.
“I think the folks in Richmond County are just tired of being victims,” Young said.
Although the drop is a good sign for burglary investigators, Young said there’s still work to do.
“When someone’s house gets broke into, it’s like my house being broken into,” he said. “I would like to continue this trend at a greater percentage.”