The west end of Newton County has been plagued with a rash of burglaries, and homeowners on Ga. Highway 212 are offering a reward to help put a stop to the problem.
Brothers Hank and Mark Burney live next door to one another and on the evening of Oct. 9 both had their trucks burglarized while they sat in front of their homes. The driver-side doors that were the point of entry faced the highway.
Both trucks were Ford models and had property of a combined value of roughly $3,150 stolen from inside the vehicles, including a GPS system, a digital camera, a laptop and several other electronic devices. According to Burney a neighbor that lives approximately half a mile down the street also had his truck broken into on Monday night and the thieves stole several hundred dollars worth of tools from his vehicle.
According to Newton County Sheriff’s Investigator Jason Griffin, burglaries this time of year are statistically very common with the holiday season fast approaching, but with the economy being less than stellar right now, law enforcement officials have noticed an increase in thefts around the county.
In the West end of Newton County three vacant homes recently had their air conditioning units stripped, costing the owner approximately $4,500 for each of them. Homeowners have also come home to find their homes broken into and mostly electronic equipment stolen. Gaming systems and video games seem to be a very popular item, as does jewelry. In vacant homes, cabinets, stoves and dishwashers are commonly stolen.
"We’ve definitely been on edge since it happened," Burney said. "We’ve been putting alarm systems on our driveway to let us know when people are in the yard. We both have wives and young children and we’re concerned about the safety of our families."
A concern that Griffin believes is certainly valid.
"Burglaries can certainly lead to more serious crimes," he said. "The more they [criminals] get away with it the braver they get. Right now they are targeting empty homes and unoccupied vehicles but it could turn ugly if they decide to break into a home when someone is inside.
"It sort of makes you uneasy when you know there have been people walking around your house when you’re inside asleep," Burney said. "But it mostly just ticks you off to know that you work hard for something and then someone just comes up and steals it. That’s pretty brazen."
Griffin encouraged residents of not only the western end, but all of Newton County to be vigilant and to look out for one another. Though many people are hesitant to become involved in something the deem none of their business, according to Griffin, if they do not report suspicious activity their property could very well be the next stolen.
"Complacency is definitely not good," he said, "because criminals will exploit complacence in a heartbeat."
Residents are advised to watch out for their neighbors and to call 911 if they notice anything that seems suspicious, no matter the time of day. Callers can remain anonymous and do not have to allow officers to visit their homes if they fear retribution of some sort. If there are suspicious vehicles or people that do not seem to belong around homes, citizens are urged to contact law enforcement as soon as possible.
For the Burney’s it may not get them their belongings back, but it would be a comfort to know those responsible for breaking into their vehicles and stealing their belongings were behind bars, thus they have decided to offer a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for burglarizing their trucks on Oct. 9.
"A lot of times people think they can’t do anything and if they call for help from the authorities and there was nothing going on that it’s a waste of our time," Griffin said. "But I want to assure them that is what our deputies are there for. Some of our best tips have come from the citizens of Newton County."