Holli Bragg-030911Listen to Holli Deal Bragg read her column.
Just a few years ago, it seems, many of us never locked our doors. We left our windows rolled down when we went to the store, we never worried about people going into our homes. Now we have security cameras, car alarms and motion lights.
Over the past few years I have noticed a sharp increase in crime. More break-ins, more thugs flashing guns, more physical attacks.
What is wrong with people?
A year or so ago, a night club opened within walking distance from our office. At first everything was quiet, in spite of fears by some that the crime would skyrocket. It didn't, but after a few months, traffic jams, parking issues, noise complaints and automobile break-ins surfaced. A few reports were filed about people flashing handguns, and a couple people complained about being robbed or roughed up by "unknown" offenders.
The night spot closed due to failure in complying with city ordinances. Soon, however, another club - this time right across from our office - opened.
The first few weeks, there was no issue. No one but carriers and night employees were around when the music started, and the crowded parking lots was something that could be handled.
But then, I started seeing the club's name pop up in police reports - not because anyone affiliated with the club did anything wrong, but because thugs saw the numerous cars parked in the area as fresh, new targets.
Windows were shattered, purses snatched. Cell phones and iPods were stolen. Trunk locks were popped. Money was taken. Anything of value was fair game for the "break, snatch and run" thieves.
Police investigated, and a handful of people were arrested. However, here just a few weeks later, another crew has taken over, and people inside the club having a good time come outside to find their car window in hundreds of tiny diamond-like pieces, and their clothes, shoes, purses, wallets and anything else they owned are gone.
Last weekend, it was more than just the auto break-ins. A group of teenagers - mere kids, really - were involved in an argument in the club's parking lot, and someone felt the need to flash a gun in someone's face.
No shots were fired, nobody was hurt, but what if? What if the kid who felt he was so bad, so tough, decided to take it a step further? What if shots had been fired and innocent lives lost?
It has happened before. Does anyone recall the teenager shooting another teen near Luetta Moore Park a few years ago?
When a would-be rapist can force a grandmother into a bathroom at the local Walmart and try to kidnap her grandchild, when a couple of unstable people hold an attorney hostage because they were unsatisfied with his service, when we find a missing man's body underneath a house on a busy corner where people pass by every single day, what else could happen here?
Statesboro is no longer the cozy, safe little town it was when we were all younger. We have bank robberies, sex offenders walking the streets, drug deals going down in the same areas some of us walk our dogs and where children play.
It seems the offenders are getting younger and younger. Are they bored by the violent video games that glorify hatred and gunplay, or are they just being taught that life is nothing but drugs, fighting and gangs?
The teens arrested for possessing stolen guns during the tiff at the club are all from out of town. Most of the shootings and stabbings and bank robberies are being committed by people from other towns - Swainsboro, Glennville, Metter, Reidsville, Atlanta and its suburbs.
What we should be asking is, what is Statesboro doing that draws criminals from other cities? Why are they coming here to play? Fight? Steal?
It's not limited to the city. The economy and the price of metal has created a new kind of criminal - the metal thief.
People are stealing air conditioner units, trailers, tin, scrap metal, appliances, and more, and not only in the dark of the night.
The recent discovery of the body of a missing man underneath a house was due to a man likely stealing copper pipes. Police found fresh cut marks on the pipes when they recovered the body.
Law enforcement officers are doing their jobs, but when they arrest one, two more take the place. Citizens, what can be done about the rising crime rate? Should we all become armed and defend ourselves against the dangerous?
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.