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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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