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Arrests for burglaries are up, but the crimes have gone down
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Late one recent Monday morning, suspicious-looking teens spotted by a Coker Road resident outside a neighbor’s house prompted a call to 911.

Around the same time of day a week earlier, an Athens Highway resident called 911 to report a burglary in progress.

In both cases, authorities made quick arrests, adding to a total that reached 72 burglary suspects locked up by Hall County Sheriff’s deputies in the first three months of 2010, an increase in arrests of about 50 percent over the first quarter of 2009.

A new array of burglary action plan initiatives put in place by the sheriff’s office has been a major factor in the increase in arrests, Col. Jeff Strickland said. But just as important, more neighborhood residents seem to be getting involved, he said.

Thanks in part to more publicity surrounding burglaries — the sheriff’s office now issues a news release for every burglary arrest — “we’ve seen an increase in people calling in suspicious activity,” Strickland said.

That’s resulted in more crooks being caught in the act or fleeing the scene, something that wasn’t as common in the past.

“It’s very rare for an officer on patrol to spot a burglary in progress,” he said. “It’s crucial that if residents see something out of place or unusual to call 911.”

Most residential burglaries occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the most commonly stolen items in burglaries are guns, flat-screen televisions and electronics.

Largely due to the economy, Hall County saw a 23 percent increase in burglaries in 2009 over the previous year. In the first quarter of 2010, burglaries in Hall County were down 13 percent compared to the first three months of 2009.

Strickland credits the agency’s action plan, which includes more crime analysis and mapping, visits to every burglary scene by detectives, a revamped pawn shop database and a reward fund.

“We believe those things we implemented in January are proving to be effective and paying dividends,” he said.

Equally important is the increased awareness of the public, he said.

“It means having many more eyes and ears out on the street,” Strickland said.

Officials know that with today’s employment picture, burglaries could still be going up, not down.

“We’re pleased with a 13 percent reduction,” Strickland said. “However, we’re going to continue our efforts and try to reduce this more.”