?We thought it was over'

By Ed Brock

It was like a bad dream repeating itself all over again for brothers and business partners Ousman and Kebba Jannen.

On Aug. 4 somebody had burglarized their designer clothing store "Makeovers" on Mt. Zion Road, kicking down the security gate and cleaning out much of their merchandise. It was the first time at the Morrow location, but the brothers were no strangers to break-ins at their previous Riverdale store.

"We didn't expect it at all. We thought it was over," Ousman Jannen said.

In Forest Park, G&G Salvage owner Dwight Ginn has been fighting burglary as well. Someone has broken into his Main Street store four times in the past two months.

"They got me three times and then I put this stuff up," Ginn said, looking at the wire mesh he had put up around his shop's windows.

The mesh was there when the burglars returned for the most recent burglary and didn't stop them from getting in.

There have been 127 burglaries in Forest Park so far this year and 337 last year, according to Forest Park police Capt. Chris Matson. That's a 38 percent drop since 1996 when there were 544 burglaries.

"And we've arrested more people for the most part," Matson said.

They've solved 22 burglaries so far this year and last year they made arrests in 43 burglaries. Matson said these crimes are hard to solve because often few clues are left behind.

Morrow has had 25 burglaries so far this year, Police Chief Kenny Smith said. In 2002 they had 50 burglaries and cleared 11 of them. The clearance rate for 2003 was not available.

Smith said that the initial alarm from the "Makeovers" burglary in his town went to Clayton County dispatchers first for some reason and the county had to call Morrow police.

Other municipal departments responded to burglaries in their areas as well.

Jonesboro has had seven burglaries so far this year, four residential and three commercial, and they've made three arrests in connection with some of them, Jonesboro police Maj. Freeman Poole said.

Riverdale has had 111 burglaries so far this year.

Forest Park has begun several programs to combat the crime and Matson had some recommendations for "hardening" their property.

"Everyone should make their property as unappealing to criminals as possible by clearing bushes and debris away from windows and doors, proper lighting, keeping cash or other valuables as inaccessible as possible and installing and alarm system," Matson said in a statement.

Ginn said he has an alarm system in his building that he's still considering having fixed.

"I don't know if it will do any good," Ginn said.

Both business owners said they believe it is the same people committing the crimes. In fact, Ousman Jannen said he caught one of the burglars on video at his Riverdale location and recognized him as someone who had been in the store before.

And then he saw the man at a movie theater shortly thereafter.

"He had on an outfit that came from our store," Jannen said.

Jannen grabbed a nearby police officer and tried to have him detain the man, saying he had video that would prove the man had robbed his store. But the officer instead took the suspect's information and told Jannen that he would follow up.

On Tuesday Jannen was waiting at the store for a worker to reinstall the security gate which he plans to fortify. Since the last burglary his brother and he have been sleeping in the parking lot near the store trying to protect what is theirs.

"I don't care if we spend $10,000 on bars, just so we can sleep at night," Jannen said.