Empty households are catnip for burglars, and some thieves are more successful than others at eluding capture.
That’s a lesson many Marietta, Smyrna and east Cobb neighborhoods are learning the hard way following a string of burglaries that started several weeks ago. Police are working with residents to get a handle on the crimes, many of which are happening in affluent neighborhoods.
“It seems the suspects think all the people are well off,” said City Councilman Grif Chalfant, whose west Marietta ward had a break-in Feb. 13 in the Hickory Hills subdivision.
Glenn Luckett of the Hickory Hills Homeowners Association said his 700-plus household subdivision has had a break-in every other month.
“It feels like a lot, but on the other hand, I’m not sure how you can be exempt from crime,” he said.
The most recent burglary on Feb. 13 caused the homeowner to be “devastated,” Luckett said, at the loss of a treasured heirloom ring after a back door was pried open.
The Feb. 13 burglar is still at large, he said.break-ins, they caught four people. The one previous to that, they caught one person. I’d say they have a 75 to 80 percent rate of catching the burglars,” Luckett said about the Marietta Police Department.
“I am not aware of any leads. One person was picked up and questioned that appeared to be casing several houses on the street, but they don’t have any proof that he was involved,” Luckett said. “One of the kids knew who he was. He was a dropout from Marietta High School.”
He said the suspect pool contains equal amounts of dropouts or truants and experienced professionals.
“The last one was a kid. The others that were caught had records of doing this and were older,” Luckett said.
Police presence has been increased.
“They’re driving around between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. with spotlights going down the drive looking for someone at night,” Luckett said. “I’ve seen more patrol cars and unmarked vehicles during the day.”
Chalfant said his ward seems to have “mini-crime waves” of break-ins.
“We get short bursts of these things. I guess you’d call them a mini-crime wave because they’ll break into three or four houses till we get on them,” he said. “Usually we do catch up with the people.”
Chalfant said the thefts are the work of inexperienced youths.
“They’re young kids. They’re not professionals. Everyone we’ve come across so far have been teenagers or in their low 20s,” he said. “They’re either not out of school or just out of school or quit school.”
The last suspects caught actually live in the ward, Chalfant said, attended Marietta middle and high school and did not drive.
“They’re pretty much on foot. That’s what we’re struggling with,” he said about the burglars’ modus operandi.
What passes for an ordinary walk home may be a crime in progress, Chalfant said.
“Look for a group of three or four youngsters milling about, casing the places and paying a lot of attention to what’s going on in the houses as they walk by,” he said.
Once those clues are spotted, neighbors should take action, Chalfant said, quoting advice from a town hall meeting last month between police and homeowners.
“We’ve explained to people if you see a suspicious person, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you just think something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t,” he said.
Another threat to homeowners lies not at their doors but in their driveways or on the street.
“A lot of them are called car door flippers,” Chalfant said about the perpetrators. “If you happen to leave your car door unlocked, they’re going to find it.”
Clues to their presence are easily discovered, he said, speaking from personal experience.
“I came out once and my doors were open. When they’re done, they don’t shut the doors because it makes noise,” he said. “Luckily I didn’t have anything in my car.”
No arrests have been made in 15 to 20 incidents over the last six weeks, Luckett said, but a pattern seems to be emerging that might help identify suspects.
“Most of the (house) break-ins are during the day. The car door flippers happen at night,” he said. “They haven’t broken windows. They’re not breaking in. They’re just opening the (car) doors.”
Luckett said the crime is preventable.
“I’m certainly concerned about the car door flippers, but I’m pretty sure I know how to stop that,” he said. “They’ve got to lock their cars.”
Chalfant said he is trying that advice.
“If it’s hard for them to get into, they’ll go somewhere else,” he said.
Luckett said that was the point.
“We make it inconvenient, and they go elsewhere,” he said.
East Cobb and Smyrna hit
East Cobb had its own crime wave cut short when a four-person burglary ring was caught in early February after 17 break-ins.
Jontavius Dearra Clark, 26, of Austell, Jaquori Harris, 20, of College Park and 48-year-old Malloy Bernard Brooks of Atlanta were arrested Feb. 4.
And 64-year-old Richard Lee Burgess of Atlanta was arrested Feb. 6.
They have been charged in connection with a string of home and car burglaries in neighborhoods off Lower Roswell Road east of Johnson Ferry Road between Jan. 17 and Jan. 26.
Stolen items recovered included a $35,000 Gucci crocodile purse. Cobb County police said the burglaries were crimes of opportunity.
Burglars get inside in a multitude of ways,” said Officer Mike Bowman. “They’ll break the front door or back door or find an open door. In those, they got in through open garage doors.”
Cobb police also responded to a burglary call in the Park Walk subdivision of Smyrna last month.
Robin Jackson said thieves used a concrete slab to gain access to her house, but she scared them off.
“This is the second burglary this week,” she said Feb. 1. “Crime has increased.”
Her advice is the same as that given by Marietta and Cobb police departments.
“People need to be aware,” she said. “Call 911 if you see something, especially teens doing something suspicious.”