January 4, 2012 10:55:00 AM
Lowndes County sheriff's deputies are investigating a rash of burglaries that have occurred in the past month. And the outbreak has residents thinking of ways to protect themselves.
One New Hope resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said there have been "several break-ins" in or near the New Hope Park subdivision in the New Hope community.
"Several of us in the neighborhood have been talking and we're real concerned," the resident said, noting there have been at least three and possibly more in the past couple weeks.
"Everybody we've talked to said they are after electronics, televisions, computers, cell phones."
The resident said there is an ongoing neighborhood watch group, and the residents within the area are making a point to inform neighbors of anything "out of the ordinary" that they see.
"Some who didn't have security alarm systems are looking into those," the resident said.
Lowndes County Chief Deputy Greg Wright said the Upper North Columbus area, just north of city limits, parts of Caledonia and areas in New Hope are being hit.
"Alabama has had several (break-ins)," he said. "All the surrounding counties have been hit pretty hard."
Diane Sherrod of Artesia complained last month of burglaries in her community as well.
"It's not being reported because I guess people are scared," she said, noting she became a victim of a burglary earlier this month.
Wright is unsure how many burglaries have occurred recently in the small town, which is located just southeast of the Highway 45 Alternate and Highway 82 interchange.
Attempts to receive additional information about the home burglaries from the LCSO were unsuccessful.
Lowndes County residents took action and started a Columbus Facebook Watch group to communicate with others about suspicious activity they see or hear and offer advice on safety.
One of the group's creators, Columbus resident Lynn Nordquist, said the group was started to "share information to stay informed about crime in our area" and she hopes it helps Columbus residents "take an active role in helping keep each other safe and informed."
She and Steve Pyle, owner of Alarm One, are two of the creators. Pyle is a lifelong Columbus resident and said the group is to give people a chance "to voice any suspicious activity that is going on" in the community.
"Hopefully, by doing this, more people will be aware and also more visual in these problem areas and report it to 911," Pyle said. "Also, it is a place that safety tips can be posted to deter crime."
Some of the areas being hit hard, Nordquist and Pyle said, include New Hope, Caledonia, Sherwood Forest and East Columbus.
"I don't think any particular area is safe right now," Nordquist said.
Eventually, the group will reach out to law enforcement to make an effort to meet with local law enforcement, Nordquist said.
"We think it definitely is helping the community and law enforcement out," Pyle said. "We have had an overwhelming response from public being thankful the group was created. We even have several law enforcement and elected officials that are in the group ..."
Alarm One has seen a big increase in calls about purchasing alarm systems, Pyle said.
"Most people that are calling are from the recent break-ins or just want to prevent one from happening," he said. "I believe everybody just wants reassurance that law enforcement is doing everything they can to stop this rash of crime going on in the area and also that media is making the public aware of what's going on."
Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen said burglaries within city limits are down this holiday season.
Lowndes County's new sheriff, Mike Arledge, is aware of the Facebook group and praised the idea. He hopes this continues and wants neighborhood watch groups to start throughout the county.
"I plan to meet with people within the community and give them tips and assure them we will do whatever we can to deter this," Arledge said.
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