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NCSO: No business robberies during '09 holiday period

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Sheriff's Office is reporting that it has taken a bite out of crime during the holidays.

"Commercial burglaries and armed robberies are usually at their highest peak during the months of November and December due to the holiday season," said NCSO spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver. "The Newton County Sheriff's Office, through increased patrol, new zone reorganization and new 12-hour shifts for deputies, was able to totally suppress these types of crimes for the 2009 holiday period."

Oliver said the numbers of business burglaries and robberies had decreased dramatically for 2008, but in 2007 there were five incidents over the holiday period. Oliver is crediting the proactive steps instituted by Sheriff Ezell Brown with the decrease.

"The changes that Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown implemented during his first year in office made deputies more visible and shortened their response time to calls for service," Oliver said, adding that one of the first things Brown did upon taking office was to divide the four zones patrolled by the NCSO into eight zones. "With smaller zones there are smaller areas to patrol and there is more officer presence."

Another step taken in early 2009 was the implementation of 12-hour shifts, making it possible to have more officers on patrol at one time, as well the formation of the Crime Suppression Unit.

"You have a lot more eyes and ears on the streets," Oliver said.

He also praised the efforts of the community in combatting crime.

"Citizens, in general, are calling in suspicious activity. We've been promoting and encouraging that and it seems to be working pretty good," Oliver said.

Home burglaries are still a common occurrence, and Oliver said it is hoped that these same measures will counteract those crimes.

"We just want to encourage homeowners and people who are at home during the day to call and report suspicious activity," he said, adding that because of the smaller zones, law enforcement is able to arrive at a potential crime scene more rapidly than in the past. "Of course, we want people to lock their doors and make sure their security systems are set, but we need neighbors watching neighbors. There are a lot more houses than there are commercial establishments, but hopefully with these same measures, we can combat residential burglaries."

Oliver said deputies made contact with more than 1,260 suspicious persons and vehicles during the last two months of 2009.