“We felt like we should try to all get together and hear from Chief [Tommy] Culpepper, what are some preventative things we could do and what their investigations are like in our historic districts,” said resident Leah Phillips, who coordinated the event.
The area saw 392 total reports in 2013, according to Uniform Patrol Division Maj. Jason DiPrima. Those numbers were down from the 495 taken in 2012.
“We did the same thing last year. We looked at what happened in 2012. In order to address that, we do things that are called, what are referred to as directed patrols. In other words, we take our manpower, our resources that are available and we place them in the areas where we need them at the time we need them most,” he explained.
Broken down further, 184 were crimes of opportunity, of which 145 were property crimes.
Many of the residents present were targets of larceny and theft — items being stolen from vehicles, outbuildings and residences.
Assistant Chief Frank McCann said the problem boils down to a cycle of repeat offenders entering and exiting the system at a swift rate.
“I know everybody’s concerned about theft, burglary, your homes, but what you’ve got to realize is you might have one or two guys doing these thefts. We’re working these cases. When we arrest these guys and they cooperate and give everything up, we end up making probably 10 or 20 cases off of one guy. We’ve had that in this area. It’s a handful of people but they live in the area,” he said. “... We lock them up. We make a case. OK, we may solve 20 cases, 30 cases. They go to trial or they plead guilty. You know what happens after they plead guilty? They get let out or they get put on probation because, unless you’re a violent offender, in this state anymore you’re not going to prison.
“So, next thing you know two months later same guy is walking down your street doing the same thing. Lock them up again. They’re on probation this time. Well, they sign a technical waiver ..., which they agree to go back to prison for a year. Well, they get four for one for that. Next thing you know, two months later, back on the street. So that’s what we are dealing with.”
CPD Capt. Mark Camp offered measures homeowners could take to decrease the likelihood of being a target of crime, including locking vehicles; installing proper lighting and leaving it on; locking doors and outbuildings; and leaving valuables at home instead of inside vehicles.
Ray Thacker, owner of Grand Oaks and a theft victim, asked what percentage of cases resulted in arrest and what the chances were of recovering stolen items. The answer — 23 percent and not very good. Because residents are often unable to identify their possessions or have no serial numbers, recovering the items becomes even more difficult.
“I don’t care how small it is, a theft is [a theft],” Culpepper said. “I had the most egregious theft occur to me one time years ago, stole one of the most valuable things anyone could ever steal, and that was my fishing gear. ... From then on, I have absolutely zero tolerance for a thief.”
Other topics residents addressed with CPD officials covered everything from response times to publishing a list of where drug dealers live.
For Culpepper, one of the best ways to keep the community safe is through community involvement.
“If you let a piece of a neighborhood go down, everybody’s not going to get together and bring that piece up. Everything’s going to fall to the lowest level. It’s the lowest common denominator, and that’s the way [the broken windows theory] goes,” he said. “Having community concern is the best place to start. The more of these that we can attend the better off we are because we get input from you about things we may never know about. It helps us. It helps you. It helps the city; it becomes a better place to live.”