Numbers alone can be deceiving when it comes to fighting crime, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said.
For instance, serious crimes in Glynn County dropped overall by 22 percent in 2016 when compared to 2015’s numbers. However, the homicide category saw a 100 percent increase in that time. The soaring homicide rate resulted from two being reported in 2016; there were no homicides in the county in 2015.
And police determined one of those 2016 homicides was justified, saying the 44-year-old woman shot and killed her boyfriend in self defense Oct. 23 on St. Simons Island. The other homicide was a tragic murder-suicide in Glynn County in which a man shot his wife and himself on Aug. 21, leaving a young daughter orphaned.
Robbery, burglary, theft, stolen vehicles and arson all were down in 2016 as opposed to 2015, according to the Glynn County Police Department’s 2016 executive summary of crime reports. Rape and aggravated assault both saw an increase.
“There are some good indicators in some categories where crime is down,” Doering said. “But there are other categories where crime is up. It’s a reminder that there are many independent variables that affect crime — and that crime is a community problem.”
And that thought brings Doering to the first two-and-a-half months of 2017, which have experienced an alarming spike in two categories. Vehicle burglaries have soared by 72.3 percent as of March 16 of this year, from 65 in that time period last year to 112 in 2017, Doering said. Also, county police have made 81 DUI arrests as of March 16 this year, a 47.2 percent increase over the 55 DUI arrests in that same time in 2016.
The increases in both categories highlight how a little help from the communities they serve can go a long way toward helping police combat crime, Doering said. In these cases specifically, it would be a big help if folks would simply take the responsibility to lock their vehicles and not drive them while impaired, he said.
“We are only one part of addressing the problem,” Doering said. “It takes a strong partnership between the police and the community, working together cohesively, collaboratively and in a trustworthy manner to effectively fight crime.”
Overall, serious crimes are up by 14 percent so far in 2017 as opposed to this same time period in 2016, Doering said. Listed by police as Part I crimes, these include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, and auto theft.
“Aggravated assaults are down, burglaries are even, but thefts are way up, specifically thefts from vehicles,” Doering said. “We have almost doubled.”
Police may have nipped vehicle burglary in the bud with the March 2 arrest of a teenager who is charged with 41 of those crimes. Jaylen Michael Parland, 17, also is accused of stealing five vehicles in an alleged two-month crime spree throughout the mainland and on St. Simons Island. Parland remains in the county jail and police are actively seeking his alleged accomplice, Doering said.
Each of the 41 burglarized vehicles were left unlocked, Doering said. Not only were the five stolen vehicles left unlocked, the keys were in the ignition, Doering.
“The point I want to illustrate is that we can best deal with crime by reducing opportunities to become a victim of crime,” Doering said. “Every vehicle he went into was unlocked. He stole many guns, valuables of all kinds — and then people even left their keys in the car. That one guy has accounted for a significant increase in our crime this year.”
The 75 burglaries reported so far this year in the county is even with 2016, but still amounts to almost one per day. Burglaries are another serious crime that can be reduced by residents taking the time to secure their property, he said. Doering has been spreading the word about the public’s role in helping police combat crime through Police and Citizens Together (PACT). The group holds monthly meetings at various regions throughout the county, highlighting crime trends in that area and sharing tips on crime prevention.
“If you don’t lock it, you lose it,” Doering said. “Lock your house, lock your car. Be aware and create barriers between yourself and the criminal.”
While DUIs are not considered a Part 1 crime, the time police devote to combatting the problem could be better spent pursuing burglars, thieves and other criminals, Doering said. And county police aggressively enforce the laws against impaired driving. That goes not only for those under the influence of alcohol, but also prescription drugs and illegal drugs, he said.
“Somewhere in the county there is a burglary, almost one a day,” Doering said. “That’s what we would rather be focusing on, but because so many people don’t drive the way they should be driving we have to take resources away for that. Eighty-one DUIs in two-and-a-half months is way too many. That’s far too many impaired drivers on the road. We could easily be focusing more on serious crime if drivers would just do the right thing.”