December 8, 2012

‘Tis the season for stealing

Area residents reporting a spike in burglaries

By Christopher Smith

— It’s a problem the Whos of Whoville from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” know all too well.

There has been a wave of break-ins throughout the Tunnel Hill area in which guns, electronics, jewelry and even Christmas gifts have been stolen, according to law enforcement officials.

Several burglary reports were reported to the Tunnel Hill Police Department this week, prompting officials to post an advisory message on their Facebook page Friday morning. But unlike the Grinch who stole items under the cover of night, these burglaries are happening in the middle of the day.

“The Tunnel Hill Police Department would like to remind you to lock your cars, lock your doors and report any suspicious activity right away,” the post reads. “We have seen an increase in burglaries from Westside to the Varnell area ... Our good citizens are our best defense against these crimes. No matter how small it may seem, please call and report any suspicious activity ... these burglaries have occurred during daytime hours while folks are at work, lets make sure we keep an eye out for each other.”

Jennifer Norton, who lives on Scenic Drive in Tunnel Hill, said she came home to a “busted front door” Thursday afternoon.

“We live in a well populated and quiet neighborhood,” Norton said. “We came home and the bedroom was torn apart. Dresser drawers were just thrown everywhere. They took a laptop, a gun, jewelry and at least three Christmas gifts. We know one of the gifts was a toy for my son, another was a pretty expensive jacket.”

Norton said she believes whoever broke into her house did the same thing to a neighbor on nearby Harper Valley Drive.

“They (police) found our Christmas wrapping paper laying in their (the neighbors) garage,” she said. “I went to Facebook and told everyone to get the word out and a lot of people were saying, ‘Yeah, that’s happened to me, too.’”

There are ways to prevent criminals from breaking into a house, said Lt. Scott Reneau with the Tunnel Hill Police Department.

“The best thing anyone can do is to communicate with their neighbors,” Reneau said. “If you trust each other and can share each other’s schedules, it will help you keep an eye on each other’s houses, while the other person is gone shopping or at work. The other thing is to lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people do not lock their doors. You can always create deterrents for criminals, like setting up cameras — webcams, gaming cams — around your house.”

Kayla Elrod, who lives on Mount Vernon Road in Rocky Face where similar robberies were reported, said “seeing my neighbors get robbed has scared my family.”

“I stay at home during the week,” she said. “I’ve really been a nervous wreck, so my husband showed me how to use his gun. We’re preparing ourselves. You just can’t afford someone coming in and stealing all your Christmas presents. It’s scary.”

Scary, but not necessarily unexpected, Reneau said.

“It’s unfortunately part of the holidays,” Reneau said. “Break-ins always pick up around Christmas because criminals know that people are racking in on expensive gifts.”

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant said his department will “stop everything that moves in order to deter the (criminal or criminals).”

“We’ve going to make sure whoever is involved doesn’t come into the city,” Grant said. “We’ve set up roadblocks and we’ll be stopping everything and anything in order to keep our citizens safe. We’ll be all over the place. The person (or persons) doing this does not want to come to Varnell.”

Capt. Rick Swiney with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office said there has been an increase in reported home burglaries in the northwest section of the county, from Reed Road to Westside.

“Every year at this time we see an increase,” Swiney said. “It’s the same this year. We started extra patrolling that sector and our detectives are following up on some leads.”

Bruce Frazier, Dalton Police Department spokesman, said “the city of Dalton has seen an up-tick in similar crime.”

“It’s not uncommon for the holidays,” he added. “If they have a pit in their stomach, call the police. Any time your gut is telling you something is wrong, something usually is.”

The Dalton Police Department also has an anonymous tip line for suspicious activity. To reach it, call (706) 278-9085, then 9, then ext. 221. Law enforcement officials ask anyone who sees suspicious activity to call your local law agency at 911. When reporting suspicious persons, callers should give as much detail as possible.