The Jan. 5 armed robbery of a Pembroke gas station next door to City Hall has led the city’s police department to post fliers in local businesses warning residents against wearing masks, hoods “or (a) device which conceals the identity of a wearer” into businesses.
“We’ll give a warning for it at that point, and thereafter they are arrested,” interim police chief Stacy Strickland told the Pembroke City Council at Monday’s meeting at City Hall.
It’s against state law to wear such items on public or private property with the intent to hide one’s identity “without the written permission of the owner,” according to the flier, which cites Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-11-38.
“A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he/she wears a mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is hidden, concealed or covered as to conceal the identify of the wearer,” the code states.
Exceptions to the rule include traditional holiday costumes on those holidays, masks used in sports events or for physical safety, theater productions and gas masks used in emergency management drills.
Police arrested George Mincey III for the robbery hours after it was committed, according to Strickland, who was reappointed as interim chief at Monday’s meeting.
“Within four hours officers had responded, processed the crime scene, obtained evidence and made an arrest in the armed robbery,” Strickland said.
“Thanks for your quick response,” Mayor Mary Warnell said.
Pembroke police have been busy in recent months, particularly when compared to last year. Police responded to 215 more calls in December 2013 than they did in December 2012, according to statistics provided by the department.
In all, Pembroke police handled 848 calls in December 2013 and 643 calls in December 2012. The city did see a decrease in thefts, juvenile calls and calls for help from other agencies during the same time period.
Also at Monday’s council meeting, the city got a clean, unmodified opinion on its 2012 audit from the Savannah accounting firm of Holland, Henry and Bromley LLP.
“It’s the best opinion you can have,” senior staff accountant Taylor Mongin said as she explained the 36-page audit to council members.
She noted the city ended up with a cash balance at the end of the year of slightly more than $293,000.
The city’s 2012 audit was expected about six months ago, but turnover at the accounting firm led to its delay. Pembroke got an extension and made its deadline, Warnell said. The city’s 2013 audit should be done by April, she added.
Also, the city’s fire department recently underwent the first stages of its ISO inspection, which could help lower ISO rates in the city.
“We should know something in about three months on where we stand,” said Fire Chief Peter Waters, who told council members that inspectors were impressed with the department’s ability to provide information.
In other business, the council awarded a $532,000 contract to low-bidder Palmcoast Utlities of Ludowici for renovation of water mains. The project will be funded through a Community Development Block Grant and work should get started within 30 days.
Warnell and Mayor Pro Tem Johnnie Miller recused themselves from the vote to award the bid because both own property in the area where work will be done.