Police: Crime in Conyers down in '09

CONYERS - Economic trends and out-of-county residents are factors leading to a renewed concern for property crime by the Conyers Police Department, while overall crime trends appear to be down from 2008.

Conyers Police Chief David Cathcart responded to the annual Uniform Crime Report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation this week by saying his department's year-to-date statistics of violent and property crimes are down from the same time last year.

The report covered crime incidents reported in the city in 2008, which showed a 16 percent increase in violent crime reported to the police and covers murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Conyers also experienced a 9 percent increase last year in property crime reported, which includes burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Along with the drop in crime incidents reported through Aug. 1, Cathcart said that property crime, particularly larceny and theft, continues to be an ongoing concern for Conyers Police because of the concentration of commercial retail areas in the city and its proximity to Interstate 20.

"What I've seen in the last few years is that quite a few of the arrests we make are people from outside our community who come in here and choose to commit their crimes here," he said. "And it seems, too, that a lot more of the people we apprehend are tied to either additional crimes in our jurisdiction or in other communities."

Cathcart pointed to the recent arrests of two men as one example. The men were accused of breaking into three vehicles on Aug. 28 in the Dogwood Drive commercial district. The men appeared to have targeted only Ford F-150 pickup trucks and were moving from one parking lot to another in search of trucks at the time of their arrest.

One of the men arrested, Michael Deandre Avery of Atlanta, had arrest warrants from Troup County against him in connection with 20 auto break-ins.

This led Cathcart to say that a lot of crime that is reported could be attributed to a small group of the population.

"They're traveling criminals," he said. "They go from one community to another committing a lot of the same crimes."

Cathcart also explained the economic downturn has had another effect on the community. The sudden increase in vacant houses in the city following the subprime mortgage crisis has led to a vandalism crisis.

"Our numbers in thefts went up because of copper thefts, people stealing wiring, air conditioning units and appliances out of these vacant houses," he said. "That runs your numbers up a bit, then that kind of stuff levels off."

He also said residents approach him asking whether theft increases when the economy sours. Cathcart said no.

"We don't see that. We don't see people out there stealing to feed their family," he said. "It's the stuff that I've just described that we get the back end of, when people are foreclosed on or have financial difficulties and have to abandon their homes.

"It's not so much of those out trying to keep their heads above water and feed their children," Cathcart said. "It's the ordinary criminals taking advantage of a bad situation."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.