Chief gives rundown on crime, security tips

ALBANY, Ga. -- The holidays are wonderful times of the year, and thieves love the holidays as much as everyone else.

Generally there is an upswing in property crime during the holiday season, said Albany Police Department Chief John Proctor. He also gave his view on the city's crime since he became chief in June 2009.

Proctor spoke at City Commissioner Jon Howard's monthly 10 a.m. Town Hall meeting at the East Albany Community Center, 1721 E. Oglethorpe Blvd.

"We are a work in progress. Too often Albany is thought of as crime ridden, helpless and hopeless," Proctor said. "That is not factual. We have some crime. Every city has crime. (Previously) there was no grassroots effort to be involved. There was a lack of cooperation between other agencies in the criminal justice system and the citizens."

That has changed, Proctor said. Citizens have become involved, agencies are cooperating well and the police department is well on its way to improving services.

Police have made many arrests, but because so many of the arrests have been of juveniles it has become frustrating to officers to see the juveniles almost immediately released because there is no room for them in juvenile facilities.

About 60 percent of burglars arrested in the past month were juveniles.

"I'm not saying that every juvenile should be locked up, but many should," Proctor said. "The Youth Detention Center keeps turning kids out because it is full. We need options to consistently deal with the problem (of juvenile crime)."

The police have been focusing efforts on adults who use juveniles to commit crimes. A couple days ago three men who ran a "hub" for stolen goods were arrested.

The police force had about 50 empty slots when Proctor took over, he said. More than 40 of those slots have been filled by new hires.

Proctor said, four "Zero Tolerance" police operations have either arrested or cited more than 80 offenders for everything from drunken driving, outstanding warrants and drug possession with intent to distribute.

More of these operations will target areas throughout the entire city where statistics show a "hot spot" or an area frequented by criminals.

At this holiday time criminals tend to target malls and other shopping centers, Proctor said. There will be increased patrols of the Albany Mall and other business strip malls and areas during the holidays.

The about 20 people at the meeting also heard from police Sgt. Michael Persley on fraud, scams and other financial crimes.

"Advances in technology have made this the greatest of all times," Persley said. "But it also makes you vulnerable to crimes that you have not been vulnerable to before."

Persley ran through various scams that could be run through the mail, phone calls or through the Internet.

"Protect yourself. Don't give out your name, date of birth, social security number to anyone," Persley said. "I'm not saying everybody can't be trusted, but everybody can't be trusted."

The police have pamphlets chock full of information on how to protect against scams, burglaries, debit or credit card fraud and other crimes available. All it takes is a phone call to the police at (239) 431-2100 to get help.

The next town hall will be held in 2011.