News 12 First at Five / Thursday, June 20, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- An armed robbery at a Little Caesars, a blatant theft in a Kroger parking lot and a robbery by force in downtown Augusta. These are all crimes committed within the last week, all during daylight hours.
It sounds like criminals are stepping up their game, but when News 12 went digging, we found it's people like you who are getting bolder, and it's helping make Augusta safer.
"There's a lot more people out in the daytime, a lot more witnesses. And with our community policing and everyone working together as a team, it's a matter of minutes before a suspect gets caught," Richmond County Sgt. Shane McDaniel said.
It's making a difference in the community. With more deputies on the streets and the number of calls rising, crime in our area is going down.
This same time last year, we had 133 robberies, 16 murders and 1,490 burglaries. This year, we've had only 55 robberies, seven murders and 1,019 burglaries.
Debbie Caron owns Eros Bistro on Broad Street. She says she can tell a difference.
"We're all cautious of each other, and we do have numbers to call if we have an incident. And, of course, with the police force out the way they are, it's much better," she said.
She says knowing a deputy is only a block away gives her the confidence to report when she sees something suspicious.
"If you're not going to stand up and help them fight the cause, you might as well not even be in business downtown or anywhere," she explained.
In the past week, both Levon Smiley and Johnny Walker were arrested thanks to the community's help. Smiley is accused of hijacking a car, and Walker is charged with robbing Little Caesars at gunpoint.
"If it wasn't for the community getting involved, some of these cases might still be unsolved," McDaniel said.
McDaniel says every little bit of information helps when tracking down a suspect. So, if you do happen to be the victim of a crime, getting a good description of the person or remembering the getaway car could be vital in breaking the case.
He says the new community policing strategy is boosting everyone's confidence -- both the deputies' and the citizens' -- and thinks that's what's leading to more calls and more arrests.