Merit badge course helped Scout catch suspect in candy theft

COVINGTON — Thanks to a crime prevention merit badge class, a young Boy Scout was able to help Newton County deputies capture a suspect in the theft of a large box of candy from his front porch.

Tammy Laan said when she was at the grocery store Friday morning, the large box of Trophy Nuts candy that was meant as a fundraiser for her son’s Boy Scout Troop 748 was delivered by UPS to her home on Chestnut Drive. About 45 minutes later, her 13-year-old son, who is home-schooled, was sitting at his desk when he heard someone walking up the front steps.

“He had just completed a crime prevention class with the Boy Scouts and they were taught not to approach a suspect,” said Laan, who asked that her son's name not be published.

So, true to his training, the young Scout watched from the front window and saw a man walk up the steps, grasp the box of candy worth $538 and walk off.

The 13-year-old then called his mother on the phone and told her what happened.

“I thought, no way,” Laan said Thursday.

But when she came home and watched video from the surveillance camera that was set up outside the house, she realized what her son said was true.

“I couldn’t believe someone would walk up in the middle of the day – it was very shocking. And then for Newton County (Sheriff’s Office) to catch guy was God’s will, a miracle,” she said.

Laan called for a deputy to come to her home. When Deputy Clay Stevens arrived, he spoke with Laan’s son, who provided a nearly perfect description of the suspect, she said.

A few minutes later, another deputy saw a man meeting the description of the thief nearby.

“The deputy took custody of the man and he admitted to taking the candy,” said NCSO Investigator Jeff Alexander. “He said he just wanted the candy.”

Laan said her son provided a positive identification of the suspect after he was arrested.

Raymond Clark III, 35, of 15 Parkwood Drive in Covington, was charged with theft by taking.

“If it was not for that the crime prevention merit badge class he took, he wouldn’t have known what to do,” Laan said. “I am very, very proud of him.”

On Monday, the eagle-eyed Scout was recognized by his troop. Laan said the Atlanta Area Council of Boy Scouts has asked him to write up what happened so they can publish it in an upcoming newsletter. She said the Atlanta Area Council will also try to submit the story to Boys’ Life magazine, the official youth magazine of the Boy Scouts of America.

Laan said her son is interested in public safety having already taken a fingerprinting class. An aspiring firefighter, he plans to take a fire safety course next, she said.

“The Boy Scouts is very good for boys,” Laan said. “They teach them things and skills they remember and it’s just good for them.”