Local News

April 1, 2014

‘Malicious vandalism’ leaves residents frustrated, scared

Deborah Kane is frustrated she’s forced to drive around in a beat-up minivan just to take her elderly mother to doctor appointments and to buy food.

A month ago, the van’s exterior was in decent condition, she said. But since a rash of vandalism left her only vehicle riddled with broken windows and a bullet hole, she said she has no other choice.

Kane lives in a group of duplexes at the Dalton Housing Authority in the 1600, 1700 and 1800 blocks of Underwood Street where Dalton police say several vehicles were shot with BB or pellet guns in the last month.

The first time was a few weeks ago when Kane’s van was pulled into the designated street parking outside her home one night. When she awoke the next morning, she found a middle window blown out, glass shards lying in the road.

The second time, the driver’s window met the same fate. About four months before that, it wasn’t just BB guns but a larger bullet hole she found near the rear end of the vehicle. Kane says her insurance won’t pay for the damage and police so far don’t have any answers.

“Why kids would get out and do something like that — if they are kids ...” Kane trailed off.

She isn’t the only one suffering.

Dalton Police Department spokesman Bruce Frazier said there have been more than 15 incidences of cars in the area being shot by a pellet gun or BB gun since March 8. About half of the shootings occurred that weekend while the others were this weekend, he said.

Frazier said the department has beefed up patrols in the area and is following some leads. So far, there are no suspects.

Housing Authority Chief Financial Officer David McKone said managers there notified police and asked for the extra patrols.

“We don’t feel like it’s somebody from our neighborhood,” McKone said. “We just feel like it’s somebody going down our streets ... It’s just malicious vandalism.”

Long-time resident Barbara Land said she believes both the Housing Authority and police are doing what they can, but until the shooters are caught, everyone will be on edge.

“You’re afraid to come out of the house, afraid to walk to your vehicle (because) you don’t know what you’ll find,” Land said.

Her car has been vandalized several times during the last few years, she said, but she was fortunate enough to escape any damage in the recent string of shootings. One time, she said, someone apparently threw a large rock through her car, then ripped out part of the interior.

A few doors down, Veronica Rodriguez said her SUV was damaged in the recent shootings, and some of the BBs flew through a front window to her home where her 10-year-old daughter sleeps, although the girl wasn’t in the room at the time. Now, she said, neighbors are afraid to look out their windows when they hear noises for fear a shot could hit them in the face.

“We need protection for these apartments because of the many problems,” she said.

McKone said the units were built many years ago with federal funds, but the Housing Authority no longer receives any subsidies from the local, state or federal governments. Instead, he said, it relies on income from rent payments, and those payments are often small because the homes are designated for individuals with low incomes.

Measures like security cameras or full-time night staff are luxuries the authority can’t currently afford, he said. McKone said authority managers feel badly for the residents and are doing what they can by cooperating with police.

Police officials have said they don’t believe the shootings are connected to another series of shootings in which vandals used marbles and slingshots to shatter windows at dozens of businesses in downtown Dalton last summer. Authorities charged Whitfield County residents Nicholas Lane Atkins II, 20; Kinsey Logan Baggett, 17; and Ricky Herbert Pratt, 22; with several counts each of criminal damage to property and criminal trespass. Their cases remain in Whitfield County Superior Court where an attorney for one of the men said all three defendants are working with victims and prosecutors to pay for the damage.

The three are scheduled for a Friday court hearing before Judge Cindy Morris.

Dalton police are asking anyone with information on the Underwood Street shootings to contact Detective Jason Bishop at (706) 278-9085, ext. 214.

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