Area armed robberies up 40%

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

Crime is on the rise across the nation, a trend that's reflected here at home.

A preliminary report from the FBI shows that violent crimes increased last year for the first time since 2001.

They're up about two and a half percent nationally.

Murders were up nearly five percent.

Robberies were also on the rise, and that's the number that has Richmond County deputies taking notice.

You should be too.

313 businesses in Augusta were held at gunpoint in 2005.

"I feel like I've been robbed of feelings that I can't describe, it takes something away," says David Bell, owner of a Subway that was robbed.

And one storeowner was forced to live through it more than once.

"I can't make any money if I keep giving it away to some guy pointing a gun at me," says Mark Angelisanti, owner of Roly Poly Sandwiches.

Richmond County investigator Ken Autry says that of all the increases in crime in 2005, including rapes, murders and aggravated assaults, the one that has them concerned the most is the number of armed robberies.

That number shot up almost 40% since 2004.

"We were kind of a in a panic to get control of it," Inv. Autry says.

And if you take a closer look at the numbers, you'll notice that starting in the month of September the numbers not only doubled, but quadrupled during the holiday season.

"There were three or four guys committing numerous robberies. Fortunately we were able to catch them, February, March of this year."

One group that had investigators scrambling included Lucey Laney students. In that case, four teenagers were arrested in connection with two fast food robberies.

"We stepped up patrols, we had stake outs. One of those caught a guy who was committing numerous armed robberies and that helped us get back to normal," Autry says.

But what exactly is normal?

"I don't like to put a figure as normal other than zero...but we are concerned," Inv. Autry says.

And if investigators are worried, you should be too.

Any time you look at statistics you have to be careful. At first glance they can be deceiving. That's why the sheriff's office tells us the report we looked at is the most accurate version they have.

For example, instead of putting all rapes in one group, the sheriff's office differentiates between sexual assaults and statutory rapes---two similar but very different groups.

Rape was up to 99 in 2005, it had been 89 in 2004.

But there are separate numbers for statutory rape. Those were about the same in 2004 and 2005.

And there is a separate category for child molestation, which was up significantly, to 149 cases in 2005.

However, nationally, forcible rape was the only violent crime number that decreased in 2005, down almost two percent.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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