Forum over break-ins draws crowd of concerned citizens

Forum over break-ins draws crowd of concerned citizens

Marion residents fill courtroom to get information, tips after rash of burglaries in the community

news@theeveningtimes.com

A Tuesday evening standing- room-only crowd of concerned Marion citizens packed Judge Fogleman’s court room to gather information about a series of home burglaries in the center of the city.

Marion Police Lt. Detective Freddie Williams laid out tips for residents and provided information regarding the ongoing burglary spree. Williams expressed his hopes before the town hall meeting organized by broker Anita Bell and Creye-Lieke Realty.

“Obviously there are concerns in the city of Marion,” said Bell. “We’ve all thought we live in a safe community. Things have changed. We need to be more cautious. Everyone is willing to do their part.”

Bell got the idea from listening to concerned citizens, talking with community leaders and following suit with police and neighborhood meetings in West Memphis last summer.

“We’ve talked with Judge Wheeless, Detective Freddie Williams, Police Chief Gary Kelley and West Memphis had this type of meeting already in several different places. I think everybody just needs to come together, express concerns and hear what each of us can do. I am tremendously impressed with this crowd.”

The meeting drew 160 concerned citizens wanting an update and action plan from Marion police.

Marion wanted citizens to help investigators catch the day time prowlers. He reported as many as 30 home burglaries since Thanksgiving time with a huge uptick in the frequency since the first of the year.

“We need help to stop the situations we have with home burglaries,” said Williams. “That help includes your eyes and ears to help track down the individuals involved in this. We are trying to pull the whole community together tonight and have a meeting about it, have a question and answer session about it, and get fresh ideas to get information into the police. A lot of this comes down to identifying individuals as persons of interest. It takes community input, because we can’t be everywhere at once.”

The area of focus were the streets along Meadowbrook, Judge Smith and Shiloh south of Military Road and West of Highway 77 and east of Block Street. There were a few other shout out mentions from the gallery from neighborhoods including the Forest Park doll houses, St. John’s Landing, and Harden Village, but the main crime area dominated center stage during the briskly paced 80 minute meeting. He reported 90 percent of the home burglaries had entry through a back window or door on houses. Privacy fences make it hard for patrolman to see back yards.

Williams told the audience what the police department wanted from the community to help solve the burglaries and make the neighborhood safer. Good detailed descriptions of out of place people and suspicious cars including tag numbers help investigators.

“If you see something, say something,” said Williams. “We say it all the time, because that its what we need. What we really want is for the area you live, is to keep an eye on your neighborhood. You should know your neighbors better than we do. I got some calls today about activity that I was unaware of. But the neighbor was keeping an eye out and made a phone call on it.”

He said the department has information on how to start a neighborhood watch program and said certain neighborhoods and streets have set up communication through closed Facebook pages and group texting. For safety sake Williams limited his help request from citizens to observing and reporting suspicious activity and out-of-place people walking around but cautioned concern about personally confronting suspicious characters.

“Being eyes and ears helps a lot, being part of or getting a neighborhood watch started is good,” said Williams, “just don’t take things into your own hands.”

Williams took a poll and most people indicated they knew the next-door neighbors by name but fewer knew the folks across the street or across the back yard fence.

Citizens may call to report suspicious activity to the MPD during office hours at 739-2101 and the sheriff on nights and weekends by dialing

701-2000.

The detective said part of Marion’s growing crime problem stemmed from the law enforcement success of the federally funded DETER program in West Memphis.

“We are not the only ones having problems, you can watch that on the news everyday, “ said Williams. “It’s rampant everywhere. West Memphis was really getting hammered. Then we started seeing an overflow from West Memphis since they started the DETER program. They are using a lot more resources which has been helping them on their crime solutions. Unfortunately, I think that has caused a lot of these guys on probation and parole to filter outwards. They are hitting the county and they are hitting Marion. They are spreading out. We are not immune. Part of growth is growth in crime.”

Home safety tips included keeping the landscaping trimmed to avoid hiding spots. Williams reported that burglars work with look outs watching for traffic who text the thieves to duck and hide when their is any other activity along the street. They case houses, ring door bells and check door knobs for easy openings for day time entry while most people are away at work.

“Don’t give these guys a place to hide,” Said Williams. “Crime can be prevented. It is common sense. They are looking for opportunity. Even during the day they have a lot of places to hide.”

Prevention is key because property recovery is tough. Williams recommended locking doors, and door bell cameras. He urged residents with cameras to let the police know in case detectives needed to review activity on the street to solve nearby break ins. Home alarm signs and stickers deter some thieves. Faithfully recording serial numbers on guns and electronics and descriptions of valuables like jewelry helps in recovery efforts which are too infrequent.

“Nationally only 15 to 20 percent of property is recovered,” said Williams. “Serial numbers help us when something is pawned. We can arrest that person for theft by receiving.”

While no arrests have been made, Williams told a the crowd one arrest was pending with information that developed over the weekend having been confirmed early in the work week.

Meanwhile, the message is the same: “If you see something, say something.”

By John Rech

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