There is a telling line in the report, Guns Used in Crime, from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics: By definition, stolen guns are available to criminals.
Linda Hiers King not only helped solve a handful of crimes Oct. 2, but her actions took a handful of criminals - and the guns they had stolen - off the streets.
The notion of citizens turning their heads to avoid getting involved is almost tiresomely true, but King took the opposite tack Oct. 2 when she saw a suspicious-looking group of young men emerge from private property across the street from her Leah home.
One of the young men was pushing a motorcycle, and met up with two others who stepped out of the woods toting guns. All three got in a waiting vehicle and drove away.
By this time, however, King had dialed 911 and alerted the Columbia County Sheriffs Office. And since deputies hadnt yet arrived, King got in her own car and followed the suspects.
Using her cell phone to keep in contact with 911, King tailed the vehicle for several miles while dispatchers routed deputies toward them. Deputies and investigators converged, stopping the car on Washington Road near Evans, and recovering a rifle and a crossbow that had been stolen from one of Kings neighbors.
And thats not all. Investigators, with invaluable help from Kings vigilant action, have locked up six people ranging in ages from 16 to 22 on charges including burglary, forgery and receiving stolen property.
In all, King helped investigators solve a string of burglaries that had been plaguing the Keg Creek area, with more than $16,000 worth of items stolen from homes.
Just a couple of months ago, Sheriffs Office spokesman Capt. Steve Morris credited citizen involvement - the core of the community policing concept - with helping bring down Columbia Countys burglary rate.
There were 396 burglaries in Columbia County last year, 136 more than in 2001. Through June of this year, burglaries were down by 76 over the same period in 2002. Why the drop?
Citizens have become more aware on how to protect themselves from being victimized, Morris says. Many appear to be active crime prevention participants through neighborhood watches and other programs.
King, while perhaps taking a little more risk than the average neighborhood watch member, is a living symbol for what citizen involvement in crime-fighting is all about. Her heroic effort took criminals and stolen guns off the street, perhaps saving countless other families from additional burglaries, or worse - violent crimes committed with those guns.
May God bless Linda Hiers King. Our community could sure use more citizens like her!
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