Fleming residents are a bit fed up with the recent increase in home burglaries within their community.
Residents gathered Thursday evening at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church to learn about the neighborhood-watch program, home-security measures and receive an update on some of the recent burglaries from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
The group has proactively created a community forum to keep tabs on what is happening throughout the neighborhood, and residents were eager to learn tips provided by the LCSO in deterring would-be thieves from returning to their area and targeting their homes.
Sheriff Steve Sikes welcomed the group and said he was pleased with the large crowd in attendance, adding that it’s the most people he’s seen come together for a neighborhood-watch information meeting in quite some time.
The meeting was called to order by Oak Hampton resident Eric Lukkarinen, who said that his home being burglarized prompted him to take action.
Sikes introduced LCSO Crime Suppression Officer Sgt. Steve Teel, who said his team brings an unorthodox set of skills to embed themselves into a neighborhood without being detected to catch thieves red-handed. Teel gave everyone his cellphone number and asked residents to report suspicious activity to 911.
Chief Deputy Jon Long told the group about a company called Leads Online (reportit.leadsonline.com). The Internet-based company allows people to register and create an inventory list of their personal items. The company is nationwide and, should property be stolen, the paperwork can be downloaded easily and presented to the victim’s insurance company. The property-inventory system also tied to pawn shops, so if thieves try to sell stolen property, the serial number will trigger an alert with the local law enforcement agency.
Detective Doug Snider reported that from the end of 2014 through Thursday, approximately 10 burglaries have been reported in Fleming. Three of them resulted in the arrests.
“Burglaries are typically the most difficult crime there is to solve,” he told the group. “When you don’t have a known offender, that is a tough road to go down. … You have to get some point to start with.”
Snider said there are four predominant ways to solve burglaries. One is catching the burglar in the act.
That prompted a brief discussion on the use of deadly force. Sikes, Capt. David Edwards and Capt. Keith Jenkins each took turns explaining to the audience that the use of deadly force should be a last resort and only if there is a clear and present threat to the homeowner and family.
Sikes added that the sheriff’s office plans to teach a class on the use of deadly force soon and have it open to the public.
Snider went on to say that the second method used in solving burglaries is at the root of what the sheriff’s office hopes to accomplish in Fleming by establishing a neighborhood watch.
“It’s the people who see things in their neighborhood, vehicles that don’t belong, people that don’t live in the neighborhood, and they take that information and pass it along to us,” he said.
Physical evidence left at the scene, such as a fingerprint, is a third method Snider said helps solve burglaries. The fourth method is tracking stolen evidence based on the personal-property inventory provided by the victim and seeing if it leads to information on who took it.
“Document your property,” he said, adding that taking photographs of household items is extremely useful.
Snider said investigators have collected some evidence from the different crime scenes which will be processed in the next week. He said he hopes the results will yield more leads in the recent break-ins.
Edwards gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing step-by-step methods that can be used to increase home security. Some were as simple as trimming tall hedges so that potential thieves could not hide behind the foliage, re-enforcing wood frames around exterior doorways and laminating windows so they cannot be easily shattered. Other methods were a bit costlier, such as surveillance systems, some of which could be monitored right through a smartphone.
Residents talked about their current forum and ways they could improve overall communication. They asked about emergency alerts, and Sikes said people should sign up with Alert Liberty.
Alert Liberty is a county-wide system that enables the Liberty Emergency Management Agency to provide people with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons and evacuations. People can sign up for the service online at www.libertycountyga.com/category/?categoryid=10.
By the end of the evening the crowd applauded the efforts of Sikes and the sheriff’s office in stepping up patrols in their neighborhood, working closely with homeowners in solving burglaries and providing assistance as they form their neighborhood-watch team.