Summertime crime – Police ready for burglary surge

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 2, 2014
These photos, provided by Decatur Police Sgt. Jennifer Ross, are "two examples of how the wood splits and breaks" during a burglary attempt.

These photos, provided by Decatur Police Sgt. Jennifer Ross, are “two examples of how the wood splits and breaks” during a burglary attempt.

This story has been updated. 

Police Departments in the metro area tend to receive more reports of burglaries in the summer.

The combination of families going on vacation and students being out of school with lots of free time on their hands creates more opportunities for mischief.

Police Departments in Decatur, Avondale Estates and Atlanta are raising awareness and their profile in anticipation of the summertime surge.

Burglaries in 2013 spiked in Decatur between May 1 and Aug 31, according to Decatur Police Sgt. Jennifer Ross.

Of the 127 burglaries reported that year, 55 of them – 43 percent – occurred during that time frame, she said. In 2013 Decatur saw the highest burglary rate since 2009, when 168 burglaries were reported. In 2009, there were 69 burglaries reported between May 1 and Aug. 31.

The biggest year for burglaries in Decatur within the last decade was 2008, when 201 were reported.

Decatur Police held a burglary prevention presentation on April 29.

“A former Decatur burglar spoke at the April 29 presentation and he talked about how he looked for the path of least resistance and what he could see:  unlocked doors and windows, open blinds and unsecured vehicle,” Ross said.

Burglars tend to look for quick, easy and quiet access to homes Ross said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s preliminary crime statistics for 2013, Atlanta saw an increase in burglaries over 2012. There were 3,007 burglaries reported in 2013, compared with 2,868 in 2012.

Zone 6 Atlanta Police Lt. D. Floyd spoke at a recent Neighborhood Planning Unit meeting and talked about the department’s plans to combat crime in Kirkwood, East Lake and Edgewood this summer.

Floyd said Zone 6 would be bringing back the summer bike patrol and reallocating resources.

“Our truancy and curfew officers will be free and will not be policing truancy,” Floyd said. “They’re going to be working details in some of our high crime areas as well.”

Avondale Estates Police are planning to address the trend through public outreach. Sgt. L. Thomas said the department will holding a citizens awareness meeting this summer, though the date hasn’t been announced yet. The city also is keeping residents informed using regular alerts sent through the city’s email list.

Thomas said in the past the city has noticed a surge in burglaries during the summer, but said the city has “held the line” in the last few years. Thomas said the best advice he could give to homeowners is to be more aware of their surroundings.

“The biggest thing is to be more observant, to secure your belongings,” he said.  “Put your stuff up.”

Here is a list of tips provided by Decatur Police Sgt. Ross to homeowners:

What can you do as a homeowner?

Lock doors & windows – In 33% of Decatur burglaries from 2012-Present entry was made through an unsecured door or window. Remember to secure doors that lead from garages and crawl spaces into your home and that second story windows can be accessed using garbage cans, ladders, deck railing, etc. A former Decatur burglar spoke at the April 29 presentation and he talked about how he looked for the path of least resistance and what he could see; unlocked doors & windows, open blinds and unsecured vehicles. He said his tactics evolved and he wore suit/dress clothes to blend into neighborhoods, targeted occupied homes at night looking for purses, wallets and keys, approached homes from the rear (often the wood line), stayed in the shadows up against the house to avoid lighting, accessed 2nd story windows and showed no fear to dogs and simply let them outside when he encountered them. His advice was that burglars want quick, easy & quiet so make your home a less desirable target by putting up more obstacles and making multiple prevention measures your habit rather than relying on just one such as “Oh I have an alarm” or “I have a dog”.

Reinforce doors and windows – It does not take much pressure to force a deadbolt to break through molding or rip a strike plate from the frame. Just a good hard shoulder or kick can do the job quickly. Here are two examples of how the wood splits and breaks. This is the most common method of forced entry we see in residential burglaries in Decatur.


If you go back and look at the video from the Craigie burglary attempt on April 23, you will see the suspects repeatedly co-kick and one shoulder the door twice and bounce off. That door was previously reinforced by Duncan Cotrell. Duncan participated in our presentation on April 29th and showed items you can buy and install that will reinforce your doors at the weak points, the lock, the frame and the hinges. He is the most knowledgeable person I have come across when it comes to what is available.

Here are just a few links to some of the items on the market. Duncan would be THE person to talk to for a comprehensive run down.

He can also tell you about security film for large windows to help prevent this…

Use lighting – Not only is it more welcoming when you arrive home, it makes a home look more occupied and most burglars do not want to enter an occupied home and they do not want to be seen. Make sure your exterior security lighting is installed high enough that a potential burglar cannot reach up and unscrew the bulbs. We have seen this in Decatur on numerous occasions and the former Decatur burglar stated he use to unscrew the bulbs. You can also utilize inexpensive light timers on a couple of lamps inside your home and program them to randomly turn on/off.

Watch out for your neighbors & Call immediately – Not only is it the neighborly thing to do, but everyone benefits from the added security that comes with knowing the people who share the space around you and looking out for each other. No police department can function effectively without the concerned assistance of community members. There is no way for officers to know where approximately 20,000 residents live and who or what vehicles normally come and go from individual homes. The police are dependent on you to call whenever you observe suspicious persons, activities or motor vehicles.

We sometimes fail to call the police simply because we are not aware of what seemingly innocent activities might be suspicious. Other times we may notice suspicious activity and be hesitant to call for fear of seeming nosey or rude. Sometimes we assume someone else saw or heard something and already called. Call the police immediately about all suspicious activity and do it yourself, anonymously if you wish. You may have more information than another caller. Do not worry about bothering the police or being embarrassed if your suspicions prove unfounded. Officers can quickly check out a person who may end up being a repair worker or friend who stopped by unexpectedly and make sure everything is okay. Think of what might have happened if you didn’t call.


People aren’t suspicious, behavior is. Although we say “suspicious person” or “suspicious vehicle”, it is in fact the behavior that is suspicious.

– Do you see someone you do not recognize loitering on a neighbor’s property or going to/coming from the side or rear of the house?

– Do you see a vehicle in your neighbor’s driveway, especially backed-in, that you do not recognize or at a time when nobody is usually home?

– Do you see person(s) going door to door, especially if they go to the side or rear of the house?

– Do you see someone waiting or loitering near a neighbor’s house, looking around as though they are trying to check to see if anyone is watching them?

– Do you hear glass breaking or the striking, banging noise caused by a door being kicked in?

– Do you see the same unknown vehicle circulating the area, driving slowly, stopping in front of your neighbor’s houses?

There are approximately 20,000 residents in Decatur and 47 police officers who are not all on duty at the same time. Think of it as having 20,000 sets of eyes rather than 47 sets of eyes.

Record your serial numbers – Last summer we experienced a series of bicycle thefts/burglaries and most of the victims did not have the serial numbers for their bicycles. One victim did and we were notified of the suspect who pawned that bicycle and learned he had pawned many more. We were then able to track down owners of some of the pawned bicycles and recover their property and charge the suspect in additional cases. Serial numbers are the only way we can trace some items and even when they do not turn up at pawn shops, they do sometimes turn up when officers are serving search warrants at locations that sell or trade for drugs or where burglary suspects are found. We cannot take and/or return items to their rightful owners without the serial numbers. It also helps if you ever have to make an insurance claim. So grab a legal pad or lined journal book and make it a game to find everything in your home, vehicle, shed and office with a serial number and record the make, model number and serial number and just add new items as you buy them. Everything from TVs, cell phones, cameras, bicycles, computers, firearms to lawncare equipment has a serial number.

Avondale Estates Police Chief Gary Broden on June 3 released the following tips for homeowners:

Dear Residents and Friends,

Summer is here once again-school is out of session and families are taking long-awaited and much-desired vacations. As stated in previous summer letters, we must always remember thatcrime does not take a vacation. During the summer months there is traditionally a rise in criminal activity, especially thefts from vehicles and carports and of items left unattended in the yard. These thefts can be classified as crimes of opportunity and combated with crime prevention measures. In an ongoing effort to discourage these larcenous activities, please observe the following preventative measures:

  • Lock vehicles when not in use. Place all valuables in the trunk compartment, or better yet, take them inside your home.
  • Do not leave valuable items (i.e. mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, etc.) unattended in your yard or visible in the carport.
  • Secure and lock gates, garage doors and storage shed doors after each use.
  • Remember to close and lock your doors and windows when you are away from home, regardless of how long you’ll be gone.
  • Keep your bicycle(s) and sports equipment inside a closed garage or house when not in use.
  • When on vacation, carry only the credit/debit cards that you absolutely need; leave all others secured at home or in a bank deposit box.
  • Senior citizens should consider using direct deposit for Social Security checks and other regular payments. Thefts from mailboxes also increase during the summer months.
  • Before leaving on vacation, complete a Security Check Form requesting the Avondale Estates Police Department to check your home during your absence.
  • Be your neighbor’s watch dog and call 911 immediately if you should notice any suspicious person(s) or activity around their home or yours.

It is our desire that you have a safe and enjoyable summer. Please assist us in making this possible by observing the preventative measures listed above. As always, feel free to contact the Avondale Estates Police Department at (404) 294-5410 should you have any questions or suggestions.


Gary L. Broden

Chief of Police

About Dan Whisenhunt

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