Fourth in a series on local law enforcement efforts to lower burglary numbers that have climbed in a down economy.
With a 23 percent increase in burglaries last year in Hall County, sheriff’s officials decided investigation methods needed to change.
In the past, property crime investigators took a second-day look at burglary reports made by patrol officers; now they are dispatched to the scene — for every burglary.
They meet with the victims, process the crime scenes, interview neighborhood residents and get a better feel for the crime.
“It gives our detectives a greater sense of ownership in the case,” said Capt. Woodrow Tripp, commander of the sheriff’s criminal investigation division. “It’s enhanced the solvability factors when they’re able to note the things that may have been passed over during the initial report taking.”
Patrol deputies traditionally have been the first responders when a Hall County burglary victim calls 911. Officials say the uniform patrol officers are conscientious when taking reports, but they’re also busy. Last year the sheriff’s office had 253,000 calls for service.
“At peak call times, they go from one call to the other,” Col. Jeff Strickland said. “The don’t have the time that the detectives can dedicate to fully investigate these crimes.”
The investigative division, which has been affected by furloughs, has switched up schedules to make more detectives available for immediate response. There are now more investigators working evening shifts, which is often when burglaries are first discovered.
The agency’s crime suppression unit, which traditionally has patrolled crime hot spots as part of the patrol division, has in recent months been attached to the investigative division instead, allowing for quicker apprehension of suspects in the area, authorities said.
Tripp calls the crime suppression officers “the tip of the spear” in locating and locking up burglary suspects.
“With criminal investigations, crime suppression and uniform patrol, we now have the total package” working burglaries, Tripp said.
Officials said they believe the new approach is showing results. There have been at least 20 burglary arrests since Feb. 1.
“We’ve had days where we didn’t have any burglaries,” Tripp said.