By Daniel Silliman
At first, it looked like the dog made the mess. Like maybe the Tate family's Shitzu had torn apart the couch cushions at the Roxbury Drive home, while the Tates were away visiting family on Thanksgiving day.
Then, Jerry Tate saw the red brick on the linoleum kitchen floor.
It had been thrown through the back window of his family's one-story, Riverdale-area home. A line of black footprints traced the steps of an intruder, who came through window, over the washing machine, and tramped throughout the house.
As he walked through his home, Thanksgiving evening, Tate said it looked "just like a tornado came through."
Glass was shattered over the kitchen floor, and the latch on the back door was kicked out. The couch cushions were strewn across the living room. The closet, in the office, was emptied. The dresser drawers in the bedrooms were dumped out.
The jewelry box was empty. The DVD player was missing.
Tate could picture masked men rifling through the house where he and his wife have lived for 34 years.
"They came through my back window and stole all my wife's jewelry," he said. "They ransacked my house. They took my DVD player. Unwired it from the surround sound, which I didn't even know how to do."
Tate estimates the men took about $2,000 worth of items from the house, though they took very specific items, he notes, not touching his guns or his television.
The burglary occurred in the afternoon, sometime between noon and 5:30 p.m. Tate was spending the holiday with his mother at a nursing home. The Clayton County police dusted the house for fingerprints, Tate said, but concluded the burglars had worn gloves.
"I'm just like a statistic," Tate said. "The next day, I read the story in the News Daily about how these break-ins happen during the holidays, and that was exactly what happened to me."
According to county police, as reported in the Clayton News Daily on Nov. 23, burglaries increase between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most often committed by males between the ages of 13 and 21, the burglaries occur during the daytime, during the school break, and while residents are away at work, or while they're traveling for the holidays. The most commonly stolen items include jewelry and electronics.
Tate said he took the newspaper article to work, posted it on an employee bulletin board, and wrote: "Don't let this be you."
On Tuesday, Tate was trying to make sure it wouldn't be him again. A black-handled revolver was set out on the bedroom dresser, next to the now-empty jewelry box. In the living room, Tate discussed getting an alarm system with a representative from Brinks Home Security.
"Guns are great," Gina Oden, a Brinks sales consultant told the recently burgled family. "They deter criminals, but they don't work if no one's home. A lot of times, guns are actually the first thing stolen."
Dave Simon, a Brinks spokesman, said the company works to protect clients by deterring criminals. A yard sign, stickers on windows and a loud siren work to encourage criminals to leave the protected residence. Homes protected by a security system are burgled about 60 percent less than homes without security systems, Simon said.
"Given a choice between a house that has an alarm system and a house that doesn't, the common burglar is going to go to the house that doesn't have one," he said.
Alarm systems are often sold to residents like Tate, who've recently suffered a burglary, according to Brinks statistics. "It's a very human reaction," Simon said. "You've been hit. You feel vulnerable. You want to protect yourself."
Alarm systems are also commonly installed in new homes and to people who have recently moved into an unfamiliar area. The Brinks alarm is also designed, according to the company, to deter the 40 percent of burglars who will ignore the warning signs. The protected home is connected to a watch center.
"It's instantaneous," Simon said. "'Bam,' there's a break. 'Bam,' we get a call. It takes about 20 seconds."
Tate, tracing and retracing the burglars' steps through his home, is looking for that type of security. "Crime is rampant in this area," he said. "I have to protect my home."