Police canvass burglarized neighborhood

 

All 1,300 residents in a west Augusta neighborhood were alerted to the neighborhood’s burglary problem when 60 officers canvassed the area Thursday.

Christine Cooper, who lives in a townhome off West Whee­ler Parkway, said she knew there was a problem but had not been a victim.

“I didn’t know how bad it was until this happened,” she said. She called the police outreach effort “brilliant.”

Richmond County sheriff’s Maj. Scott Peebles said the West Wheeler Parkway neighborhood of townhomes and apartments has seen about 100 break-ins in the past 15 months. The burglars are primarily going through a back door or window and taking jewelry, small electronics, cash and firearms. The incidents most often occur between 3 p.m. and dark.

Most residents have high privacy fences and alleys between properties, making it a “very easy place to walk in and not be seen,” he said.

Police have concerns that residents might be too trusting. Plain-clothed officers have walked through the area without anyone reporting them as suspicious.

On Thursday afternoon, police knocked on every door and stopped incoming and outgoing vehicles to give a flier and encourage residents to contact police and be suspicious of all foot traffic behind homes.

Jaimie Pate, a burglary victim, said she was happy to see police doing what they can to save “a good neighborhood.”

Someone broke into Pate’s home around Thanksgiving after jumping her privacy fence and coming in a window. It took a day for her to realize that jewelry and money, including some from her son’s piggy bank, were missing.

“The worst part is going back in your home and knowing someone has been there,” she said.

Pate, a single mother, said it’s made her hesitant to go out with her son after dark.

Though Kevin Pencille hasn’t been a victim, several of his neighbors have. He and his neighbors try to watch out to prevent future crimes.

“(The police) are showing a presence and trying to deter it,” Pencille said.

Peebles said the police presence will continue to increase. The sheriff’s office is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. Investigators believe there might be several groups responsible.

David Bickell was loading his belongings into a moving truck when police canvassed the neighborhood. The previous day when the truck came, police blocked it in and questioned Bickell. He said police were suspicious of the truck and its out-of-state plates.

“I appreciate the proactiveness of the cops,” he said.

Bickell said he has not had any issues in the neighborhood and is moving for work-related purposes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 821-1080 or rcsointel@augustaga.gov.

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

• Hide jewelry in places difficult for thieves to find. If there are large amounts of jewelry, hide it in various locations.

• Record serial numbers of all electronics and firearms.

• Record details and take photographs of high-end jewelry, coin collections and other valuables. Having appraisal reports done by a reputable jeweler can help.

• Install tracking programs on all smartphones, tablets and computers.

• Get to know neighbors and share contact information.

• Pay attention to routines in the neighborhood and report suspicious activity.

• Consider adding cameras to your security plan.

PDF: Flyer handed out in West Wheeler neighborhood

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