By Ed Brock
Forest Park and Clayton County police have arrested five men in connection with around 35 armed robberies and they say more victims may still come forward.
Marvin Jones, 19, Ronnie Monfort, 18 and Otis Williams, 19, of Atlanta and Raymond Brown, 19, of East Point along with a 14-year-old male juvenile were arrested and charged with several counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault, Forest Park Police Sgt. Marc Grunden said. The arrests came about after a Forest Park police officer stumbled on a robbery in action on Sunday.
Grunden said that Officer Sidney Jackson saw a vehicle blocking a taxi on Gilbert Road and realized the situation fit the method of operation of the robbers as investigators on the case had described it. That method of operation was to use a car to block in the victim as he or she was pulling into a driveway or parking space and then approach the victim as a group, armed with pistols and shotguns.
"They were attacking these people when they were most vulnerable," Grunden said. "They appeared to be targeting people who were coming home and who had cars they (the robbers) liked. They liked Dodge Ram pickups."
The investigation into the robberies began in the first week of August when members of the Forest Park Police Department's crime analysis unit noticed a trend in robberies and carjackings in an area around Jonesboro Road and Conley Road.
Grunden said the robbers were hitting one to two victims a day, taking wallets, cell phones, money and cars. They didn't take any steps to conceal their identities, and they always wore the same clothes, white T-shirts and baggy shorts, an outfit Grunden said was inspired by a rap song.
Though the robberies were occurring in a small geographic area there were four police jurisdictions involved in the investigation, including Hapeville and Atlanta police departments as well as Forest Park and Clayton County.
"If we had not worked together we would not have had the successful results we had," Grunden said.
Jones, Monfort and Brown were arrested Sunday and Grunden said that they provided the information that led to the arrest of Williams and the juvenile.
Alberto Sigala is one of the victims of the crime spree. On Aug. 17 two men approached Sigala, a contract electrician, while he was working at an apartment complex on Jonesboro Road.
It wasn't the first time. Different suspects had robbed him in the same apartment complex in the same way the year before.
"It seems to be something normal in this neighborhood," Sigala said.
In fact, Sigala said on Tuesday that his bags are packed and he's moving back to Los Angeles because of the robberies.
"It's sad to leave a place because of this," Sigala said. "(Los Angeles) is supposed to be a dangerous city too, but it's not as much. I'm 45 years old and it never happened to me there. It's happened to me twice here."
Grunden said many of the victims were Hispanic, and police believe that there may be victims who are reluctant to come forward from that community. For that reason, he added, they are not releasing pictures of the five suspects because that would interfere with the ongoing investigation.
While they have recovered several stolen items, including some stolen vehicles, Grunden said they have only recovered one of the weapons, a shotgun, at this point. Also, they are still looking for a white 1996 Buick LeSabre with a "Jordon" drive out tag that was used in some of the robberies.
Anyone with any information on the vehicle or the crimes is asked to call Forest Park police at (404) 366-4141 or the detective divisions of the Atlanta, Clayton County or Hapeville police departments.