When Dr. Russell Ellicott's office was burglarized, the thief stole a refrigerator by carrying it down a flight of stairs.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Few crimes feel more invasive than someone burglarizing your home - busting down the front door or jimmying a window, rummaging through your stuff.
Mirroring a national trend, the burglary rate for Columbia County in 2002 jumped considerably over 2001. According to statistics provided by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, there were 396 burglaries in 2002 as opposed to 240 in 2001. That's a 52.3 percent increase.
Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris said that a sluggish economy typically is a catalyst for an increase in burglaries.
"When the economy cools, criminal activity tends to heat up," said Capt. Morris. "It's no surprise that some nonviolent property crimes are up. As the economy begins to recover, we hope to see these numbers decline again to continue our near decade-long drop in crime rates in Columbia County."
Though the economy is out of the hands of local law enforcement, the sheriff's department is focusing on other elements that contributed to the increase in burglaries.
"You commit burglary when you enter someone's residence, office, or shed in the backyard with the purpose of theft or committing a felony," said Sgt. Frank Dodson, a 10-year veteran of the office's Criminal Investigations Division.
Dodson believes the economy played a factor in the rash of 2002 burglaries, but incidents with repeat offenders, technology-based burglaries and desperation contributed to the increase as well.
"A couple of people that were committing burglaries were guys that had recently gotten out of jail," said Dodson. "Whatever the reason, they reverted back to their old bad habits.
"One of the guys that committed several of the robberies I arrested myself in 1994 for burglary."
Dodson referred to Joshua Dover, 27, of Hephzibah, who is charged with committing eight burglaries at six businesses and two homes in 2002. He is awaiting trial.
One of the burglary victims was the Augusta Foot Center off Furys Ferry Road. According to police, the thief stole an unspecified amount of money, deposit slips and a foot spa. The thief also took a refrigerator from the second floor of the office building by carrying it down a flight of stairs.
Five bottles of Lidocaine also were stolen. Dodson believes Dover stole them to relieve the pain caused by Dover's bad teeth.
"Believe it or not, but we were robbed on the first day that we opened our new office," said Dr. Russell Ellicott of the Augusta Foot Center. "We didn't have our alarm system set up yet and it cost us. It was silly of us not to have had it going, but we connected it immediately following that incident."
Police can make every effort to decrease the number of burglaries in 2003, but Dodson said that expecting it to stop altogether is an unrealistic goal. But with the help of the public, the crime can be made a lot tougher to get away with.
One of the more important things Dodson said people can do is to properly catalog and identify their property.
Technology-based items such as computers and televisions are popular items for burglars. Tools also are heavily sought by burglars. Dodson says those kinds of merchandise is popular because it is easy to sell, pawn or even trade in for drugs. But there are ways to protect, and even recover, stolen goods.
"One of the most important things you can do is to write down the serial numbers of the things you own, or put some kind of identifying mark on your stuff, like etching your initials into your power tools," said Dodson. "Without those serial numbers, the chances of getting your things back are not good. I always say that if you love it enough to buy it then love it enough to mark it. Without something to identify it with, if it makes it out of the state then it's pretty much gone."
Dodson said that most burglaries are committed as a means of buying drugs, but there have been incidents when the commission of the crime stemmed from desperation.
"There have been a couple of cases where people just didn't have a place to live and they were inside eating," said Dodson. "Sure the scenario seems sad, but you have to take into account how they screwed up their own lives and put themselves in that scenario. It doesn't seem so sad then."
Burglaries Committed in Columbia County
52.3 percent increase
Burglary in Columbia County as compared to Georgia and the nation (expressed as rates per 100,000 population)
Columbia County: 396
Georgia Rate: 856.4
National Rate: 740.8
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