An alert Jonesboro police officer stopped three teenagers wandering city streets about midnight Monday, and connected them to the vandalism of a convenience store the night before, said Jonesboro Police Chief Franklin Allen.
Police responded to an alarm at Next Level Fuel on North Main Street about midnight Sunday. Allen said store surveillance cameras showed at least two people throwing rocks, shattering the front door and a window, before fleeing the area.
Store Owner Bill Ali met with police and told them he could find no evidence of theft. Allen chalked up the incident to vandalism.
About 24 hours later, Officer Jonathan Gray was patrolling the area near the store and stopped three juveniles walking along North Avenue. One of the three matched the description of a suspect caught on surveillance tape, said Allen. Gray called Sgt. J. P. Smallwood to assist in questioning the trio.
"During the course of the interview, they confessed to throwing rocks at the store," said Allen. "Based on those confessions, they were taken into custody and their parents were contacted."
Gray and Smallwood continued to question the three with their parents present. The teens told police two threw the rocks while the third watched, said Allen.
The teens, who were not identified because of their ages, live in a subdivision off Tara Road in Clayton County, he said. They are enrolled in high school and slipped out of their homes without their parents' permission, said Allen. Two are charged with criminal damage to property and all three were cited for violating the state's curfew, he said.
Ali said he was grateful for the quick arrests.
"I am happy to hear it," he said, back behind the counter Tuesday, ringing up cigarette, gas and lottery ticket sales. "I hope they keep them off the streets as long as they can ..."
It cost Ali more than $300 to replace the broken glass, he said. Allen said a request for restitution has been filed with the Juvenile Court. Ali said the store has operated for more than 55 years, but he has owned it for two.
"They told me that this is the first time something like this has happened here in 55 years," said Ali. "When they called me, and I saw on the camera what they did, I was sad."
Much like the rest of the state, Jonesboro is experiencing scrap metal and copper thefts. Allen beefed up patrols in the wake of the theft of metals from two air conditioning units at historic Stately Oaks.
"We heightened patrols to cover peak times and told officers to be alert and aware," he said. "They may have been out looking for copper thieves, but they found these juveniles. I am very proud of the officers and the work they did."
Allen said the officers were putting their training into practice.
"These arrests are the result of good police work, good training and dedication," he said. "I have a simple philosophy I try to instill in our officers –– if you pay attention to the little things, sometimes, they turn into big things, if you are astute and aware."