Burglary reports, resident help increase

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Reports of burglaries in Albany have increased by 215 for the past six months of 2010 when compared with the same period in 2009, Albany Police Department statistics show.

That trend is being matched by another more optimistic and difficult to quantify trend: city residents are calling in to be of help to police in increasing numbers, said police department officials.

"We make sure we cover as best we can't be in every part of the city with the resources we have," Police Chief John Proctor said. "When you have limited resources in a community of 70,000 with a lot of businesses, with a lot of apartments, that can be difficult. The police department cannot do this alone it involves the citizens helping make the city safer. I know for a fact that more citizens are starting to call in. That is a good thing because that is how we deal with crime."

Although any thoughts on why there was a rise in the number of reported burglaries would be speculation, dealing with the rise in burglaries has given rise to various tactics, Proctor said.

In April there was a spike of 163 burglaries. That is the most of the past six moths. An investigation pointed to what Proctor called a "hot spot" for burglaries at the Lake Park section of town around Merry Acres and Lake Loretta.

"We identified hot spot areas and then we focused on dealing with that area," Proctor said. "After we started identifying and working in that area a lot of burglaries diminished. As you identify a pattern you send people to deal with that pattern. The pattern may move somewhere else so you constantly have to adjust to accommodate that."

The way Proctor sees it; it doesn't matter where the pattern of burglary or other crime might show itself. He has sworn to protect the whole city, east and west.

"Lake Park was not the only place we saw some patterns. This community doesn't need to feel like just because you live in this area or that area or if you are not more affluent that we don't care about you," Proctor said. "That is not the way we operate. I've told our folks to get out and meet people and show them that you enjoy working for them.

That you care about them."

Proctor was unwilling to discuss specific areas of the city as hot spots and the singular tactics his force uses to fight crime. He did not want criminals to learn how the police operate.

"Tactical things that we are doing, that is for us to know," Proctor said. "Because I don't want criminals reading the newspaper to know what we are doing and how we are fighting for the community."

He did say that he will use whatever it takes in the fight against crime, including but not limited to overtime pay, putting sworn officers who act as administration on the street and patrolling himself.

"I know people are calling in suspicious people in cars in their neighborhoods," Proctor said. "One of the calls we got about a suspicious car was me in my car out in an alley."

Comparing the crime statistics month to month, year to year, can prove a misleading indicator of what is really happening in the city, according to David Sparks, police department analyst.

The statistics log calls as what they came in as, Sparks said. Although no numbers on the issue were shown at an interview Thursday, many calls are false, according to him.

Taking a look at the FBI website fbi.gov/ucr and comparing national crime numbers with Albany numbers shows that when crimes such as burglary go up nationally, they goes up here.

Rising crime in Albany can be reduced by residents, Proctor said.

Police fight crime, but people can help prevent it, he added.

Garage doors left open, boxes from new flat screen televisions in the trash and leaving curtains open at night to show off the home interior all scream come in and take my stuff.

"Criminals tend to case a place out. Don't show them what you have," Proctor said. "If you see a suspicious person call us immediately, we'll check them out."

Albany Police Department crime prevention tips for business and home:

- Doors and windows: Use deadbolt locks on all exterior doors. Doors with glass within three feet of the lock should have double cylinder deadbolts.

Check all doors and windows each day, before closing shop or retiring for the night.

Before you leave, check all potential hiding places, like bathrooms, closets and storage areas. Don't lock a burglar inside.

Don't leave garage doors open.

- Alarm systems: Install a good alarm system and have it checked regularly.

- Lighting: Light up all entrances.

Keep some lights on inside, and place them near the rear so an intruder's silhouette can be seen from the street.

- Money: Keep as little cash around as possible. Make bank deposits frequently, but irregularly so as not to establish a discernible pattern. Empty your cash drawers and leave them open after hours.