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'Skelator' example of cross-jurisdictional policing

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The first time was attention grabbing: A man dressed in a skeleton costume and wielding a black handgun held up a pharmacy.

Then it happened 16 more times.

At the Clayton County Police Department, the hold-up man is called "Skelator," after the skull-headed villain from the He-Man cartoon popular in the 1980s. There's a map of places he's robbed, since early December, and a map of places he might rob.

The case started in Clayton County as one unusual hold up, but now, the marks on the map show a swath of similar stick-ups in northeast Clayton, northwest Henry County and southwest Dekalb County.

Though the "Skelator" hasn't gotten away with much money -- in one robbery only $31 was taken -- the crimes have been escalating, the criminal's boldness increasing, and the targeted area has been expanding.

Detectives from the affected jurisdictions met recently, to exchange information and compare notes about the Skelator and discuss ways to catch the man in the act.

As yet unsolved, the "Skelator" hold-ups demonstrate local law enforcement agencies' efforts at cross-jurisdictional crime fighting. While jurisdictional fights are accepted "common knowledge," perpetuated by movies and historic examples, local officials say that's the past, and detectives from different agencies freely call each other and exchange tips, leads and details.

"We're trying to exchange information and get direct contact when stuff happens," said Capt. Rick Gandee, at the Clayton County Police Department.

"We're sitting down and doing a map," the captain said, "pin-pointing targets, looking at possible targets. We're getting little, small bits of information [about the Skelator thefts], plus getting videos from the stores, getting a little bit better identifiers, and exchanging all that information."

Clayton County police agencies have moved recently to institutionalize the detectives' cooperating, holding a monthly meeting where the investigators get together and discuss current cases. Gandee called the Feb. 2 meeting a "re-acquaintance," where detectives from the county and from the six cities "exchanged a whole list of phone numbers."