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Suppressing break-ins
Police up visibility for spring break, concentrate on burgled neighborhoods

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The lieutenant tapped at laptop keys. A black computer screen came up with the previous day's reported burglaries listed in green, orange and blue.

"Is that that right?" Clayton County Police Lt. Scott Stubbs asked. "There were only six burglaries yesterday?"

Some conservative estimates have placed the county's average daily burglary tally at more than 10, so six is a low number. Most residential break-ins are committed during the day, during school hours by middle and high school students who aren't in school, according to department statistics. Seeing the number down on the first day of the spring break, when the county's 52,805 students are out of school, is notable.

On Tuesday, Stubbs was leading the county's School Resource Officers (SROs) in a burglary suppression operation. The 15 police officers spent the shift patrolling neighborhoods with high rates of burglary, responding to burglar alarms and calls reporting suspicious people and large groups of loitering teens.

The burglary suppression is responsible for at least part of Monday's low number of break-ins.

"We're out here and they know we're out here," Stubbs said. "We're visible."

Stubbs, his sunglasses pushed up onto the top of his head, was sitting inside a large black vehicle, which looks like an RV but is, officially, the police department's mobile command post. Parked off of Garden Walk Boulevard between two apartment complexes, the black vehicle has the agency name painted in large red letters on the side, and a generator, powering the rig, rumbled underneath. The mobile command post was nothing but visible, Tuesday afternoon.

That morning, the officers ran a road check near the mobile command center. They arrested a 44-year-old man who stopped his BMW in the middle of the street when he saw the command center, backed up against traffic, and tried to run away, according to Sgt. Richard Godfrey.

Some of the decrease in burglaries can also be explained by all the students who aren't in school. Rather than sending the burglary rate rocketing up, the out-of-school students who have good relationships with the SROs actually help reduce crime.

"Some burglars might be laying low because all the kids are home," Stubbs said, "and some of these kids, they'll tell you what's going on in the neighborhoods ... There's a relationship. They know the officers from the schools and we bridge that gap between the police and the kids."

On the first day of spring break, as the SROs under Stubbs command went out with the mobile command post and worked to bring down the burglary numbers, students told officers about vacant houses where kids were hanging out, and drug dealing activity.

In the first two days, the SROs burglary suppression operation focused on increasing the visible police presence on Garden Walk Boulevard, especially on the Ga. Highway 85 end of the corridor, Thomas Road, Maddox Road, and Fielder Road. At about 2:30 p.m., the officers were wrapping up at Garden Walk Boulevard and Stubbs was looking at the previous day's burglaries.

"All right," he said, and he wrote down the six addresses on a blank piece of paper. He picked up his Nextel phone and called the officers, directing them to the Monday burglaries.

"Talk to the neighbors," he said into his cell phone. "Ask the neighbors if they saw anything suspicious and see if we can get any leads out of it."

The operation will continue for the rest of the week, until the SROs and the students return to school.