LaGRANGE — ‘Tis the season to be jolly — and according to the LaGrange Police Department, it is also the season to be naughty for area thieves.
And it seems some criminals are getting an early start to their illegal holiday festivities by breaking into homes and cars around the city.
Sgt. William Nelson of LPD’s Criminal Investigation Section said while the city’s statistics show there have been fewer burglaries in 2015 than in 2014 to date, in just the past month there has been a steady increase in burglaries and entering autos around the community.
Nelson said most of the burglaries are in residential areas south of Vernon Street to Whitesville Street near Lukken Industrial Drive. The reports of entering autos and some burglaries are mainly in the northeastern part of LaGrange, in residential areas between Vernon Street and Mooty Bridge Road, Nelson added.
Nelson said as of Oct. 1, there had been 70 reports of burglaries and 48 reports of thieves entering autos made to the LaGrange Police Department. Although Nelson stated an overwhelming majority of the entering autos reported were crimes of opportunity because the owners simply forgot to lock their vehicles.
“What we’ve found in the past in looking through surveillance videos are people just try opening car doors until they find one that’s unlocked,” he stated. “We want to remind folks to always lock your cars and roll up your windows. For the ones who did have their doors locked, don’t leave valuables in plain view for people to see. You have to remain vigilant.”
Nelson said officers and investigators with the LaGrange Police Department are also remaining vigilant.
While he could not go into specifics, Nelson did state the department is being proactive and stepped up special details to stop thieves from targeting more victims. He said detectives and officers will be assessing where the crime is occurring on a day-to-day basis, then concentrating their efforts in different areas of the city in the next few weeks.
“What we would like to do is make some key arrests and kind of curtail what is going on, but we can’t do that without the help of the community,” said Nelson. “We know there are some folks that know what’s going on, we just need them to talk to us, cooperate and tell us what is going on.”
As of Nov. 19, police had arrested 14 people on charges ranging from entering auto, prowling and theft by receiving, Nelson said.
“We’ve seen a great many repeat offenders in some of these cases … they have a history of committing these offenses,” he added.
While these criminals may be off the streets, there are many more waiting to take their place. Nelson said homeowners and renters need to be on high alert for those looking to be a “Grinch” this holiday season.
“With the burglaries, we want to remind folks not to leave valuables in windows or put boxes of new things that you just bought of value out by the curb,” he stated. “Specifically with the holidays coming up. It advertises what you have.”
Nelson also reminded folks to lock their doors and windows when they are not home.
“In large part, we see a lot of these (crimes) happen during the daytime hours when people are at work,” he said. “Some happen at all hours of the day and night. I think the details play a role in that, because they see us out there. There is a more visible presence of patrol officers and traffic enforcement officers in those areas where we have identified these crimes occurring in the city.”
Nelson said officers and detectives also regularly check pawn shops in town to see if any stolen items pop up in their stores.
Anyone with information on any recent burglary or entering auto in the city limits is asked to call Nelson at 706-883-2688 or Troup County Crime Stoppers at 812-1000. Folks can also leave a message on the LaGrange Police Department’s Facebook page.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.