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Join the Clean Car Campaign

One of the most commonly recurring crimes in the City of Americus is the theft of items left in vehicles.
In just the first four months of 2016, there were over 130 such thefts reported to the Americus Police Department. This is a problem affecting not just our city and county, but the entire region. In meeting with chiefs and sheriffs across South Georgia, I have found that these types of crimes are up all across the state. Although we have made some arrests, the thefts are continuing to occur and are primarily being committed by young suspects.
There are several things that each of us can do to help cut down on the occurrences of this particular crime in our community. First, don’t be an easy victim. The Americus Police Department is joining with other agencies across the area to promote the Clean Car Campaign. We are distributing printed reminders to civic and community groups that people can hang in their vehicles to remind them to remove all valuables from the vehicle each time they exit and to lock the doors. These types of thefts are crimes of opportunity. Would-be criminals walk through parking lots and neighborhoods looking in car windows. If the car interior is empty they are likely to move on to the next vehicle. If a vehicle owner has left their laptop, cell phone, purse, handgun, hunting rifle or bank deposit bag lying on the seat, it is much more likely that a thief will enter the vehicle to grab what is openly displayed. And yes, all of the things I just listed have been left in vehicles and stolen right here in our city.
The second thing you can do is call the police when you see something suspicious. We must all be responsible to each other if we want to have a safe and crime-free community. If you see someone walking through a parking lot looking in car windows or walking around your neighbor’s house when they are not at home, call the police. Our officers can’t be everywhere, all the time. We need the community to be our eyes and ears and to speak out.
The third thing you can do is educate your children and grandchildren about the seriousness of the consequences if they are caught and charged with stealing from a vehicle. Even if all that is taken is a few cents in loose change, stealing from the interior of a vehicle is a felony in the State of Georgia. This simple crime can have lifelong consequences for a young person trying to get into college, find a job, or join the military with a felony conviction on their record, all because they opened a car door and took someone else’s property.
If we all work together we can have a tremendous impact on crime in our community.

Mark Scott is chief, Americus Police Department.