Originally created 11/27/05

Recent violent crimes random, officials report



For the Augusta area, last week's deadly shooting outside a North Augusta Huddle House was part of a rash of violent crimes this month, including home invasions, store hold-ups and a bank robbery.

To wary eyes, it could seem crime is up, but local authorities say these things happen indiscriminately, and they're more likely random occurrences.

In other words, what might look like order emerging out of chaos is really just more chaos. Sometimes, unconnected crimes can occur in spurts, for no other reason than bad luck, authorities said.

"These incidents seem to come in waves," Aiken County sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said, speaking from experience, not statistics.

He said he has observed violent crime activity rotating through Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties.

"I don't think it occurs in any particular order," he said.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry agreed that violent crimes occur sporadically.

Although there have been about 20 more armed robberies in Richmond County through October 2005 compared with the same period last year, the overall rate of armed robberies is statistically similar to previous years, Maj. Autry said.

"I wouldn't call it a big increase," he said. "A little more than average."

A big concern for local authorities are criminals who target specific locations repeatedly. Michael Yarbray, 18, was arrested Nov. 21 and is accused of holding up three Subway restaurants in Augusta and a convenience store during a three-week period. Maj. Autry said taking such a suspect off the streets helps keep the armed robbery rate flat.

In North Augusta, police are still searching for an armed gunman who killed William Powell, 61, outside the Huddle House at 1010 Edgefield Road and shot two other people during botched carjackings Nov. 22.

The media has broadcast and published the description of the suspect, who is considered armed and dangerous, but he has eluded police.

Elizabeth Griffiths, an assistant professor of sociology at Emory University and a criminology teacher, said that sometimes what looks like a rash of crime has more to do with the news media's reporting of crimes.

One crime will be reported, and then when second and third similar crimes occur, they get reported for no other reason than that the first crime made the news. The crimes then seem more significant than they are, she said.

"That sort of takes on a little bit of a life of its own," Ms. Griffiths said. "Sometimes, the media will be reporting activities that happen with greater frequency than others. So we don't know if a month or two months ago there were absolutely no home invasions, for instance, if the only place that we're getting our information from is media outlets."

Ms. Griffiths said if there is no connection between the perpetrators, it's possible the crime streak is no more than a collection of random events.

"I would like to see the police data to be able to know if there's a significant increase and a trend over time," she said. "When we're talking about a very short period of time, we don't know if this is going to be an ongoing increase or not. Staff Writer Johnny Edwards contributed to this article.

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.

Don't become a victim

- Lock all doors and windows even if you'll be gone only a few minutes.

- Make sure a trusted neighbor is keeping an eye on your house if you go away. Put lights on timers and keep shades and drapes in normal positions.

- Pick up items in the yard that need to be stored.

- Have a deadbolt and a peephole in your front door.

- Take only the cash and credit cards you need while shopping. Carry purses closed and snugly against your body; carry wallets in front pants or coat pockets. Source: The National Crime Prevention Council

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Recent Violent Crimes

Nov. 22: An armed gunman shoots three people outside a North Augusta Huddle House during two botched carjackings. William Powell, 61, dies at the scene.

Nov. 21: Richmond County sheriff's deputies arrest Michael Yarbray, 18, after police said he robbed at gunpoint three Subway restaurants and a convenience store during a three-week period.

Nov. 21: Two men fire several shots at a stranded motorist at 10th and Barnes streets and steal $697 from him. The victim is not hurt.

Nov. 21: Three armed intruders enter an unlocked house in the 2400 block of Mansion Court Road and ransack it. They steal cash and a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe.

Nov. 20: An armed man robs the Blockbuster video store on Wrightsboro Road.

Nov. 17: Authorities arrest Eddie Garnett, 35, of Augusta, after police said he robbed the SunTrust Bank on Washington Road in Thomson earlier in the day.

Nov. 16: Two men enter a Richmond Hill Road house and demand money. Police later arrest Joshua Davis, 17, of Silverdale Road, on burglary and weapon charges.

Nov. 13: Five men invade a Hill Avenue N.W. home in Aiken and take money, jewelry and guns. All the men are later arrested.

Nov. 12: Steve Martin, 31, and Michael Bogans, 29, are shot and killed outside Gunther's Lounge on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Augusta.

Nov. 3: Tyrone Ramsey is shot and killed as a "potential witness" to a home invasion on Jefferson Drive in Augusta.

Source: www.augustachronicle.com.