Commercial burglaries on the rise in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - As 2016 comes to an end, we're taking a closer look at some crime stats in Savannah - specifically commercial burglary numbers, which are up nearly 100 cases from this time last year.

While police can't exactly point to one exact cause for that growth, a crime prevention officer we spoke to Thursday has several theories he shared with us.

Marvin Williams, a crime prevention officer for Savannah's second precinct, says thieves are instead likely picking businesses because of their vulnerability. In fact, along with commercial burglaries, theft from building numbers are up as well.

To help combat the crimes of opportunity, crime prevention officers try to encourage businesses to develop a buddy system with neighboring shops and to not rely solely on security systems to keep crooks away.

"Those things are a great help, and in some cases a great deterrent. They do not answer all the questions. We have the human factor as well, and if any system is not followed, it will be problematic and will offer opportunities for someone to then intrude upon your business, intrude upon your residence, and to then, unfortunately, illegally acquire your goods," said Williams.

One business all too familiar with the growing trend in 2016 is locally-owned Hawg Scooters.

"Over the past eight months or so, we've been broken into I think four times, three times. I actually still have the police report sitting right here," said Hawg Scooters owner Whit Campbell.

The multiple break-ins and attempted break-ins have forced Campbell to re-think the way he does business, and that includes installing expensive surveillance equipment.

"It takes a burden on your company, especially when you're a small business just trying to get by. I had some guys try to kick in my front door," Campbell said.

Campbell says that attempt cost him $1,200. For small businesses, those costs that come with break-ins and burglaries can be devastating. Because mom and pop shops might not have the resources to hire a guard, for instance, police encourage neighboring businesses to team up.

If I know the shops to the left of right of me close at a specific time, close around when I close, depending on our lease, 'hey, why don't we close together? Why don't we exit together? Why don't we do checks together?' I make sure you turn on your alarm and you make sure I turned on mine. And even doing a walk-thru," Williams said.

When responding to burglaries and working with local businesses, Williams says he tries to help them develop a system, whether safer closing practices or establishing better security.

Williams encourages businesses to stay in touch with investigators, because even the smallest tip or piece of additional information in a burglary case, can go a long way in stopping burglars from crippling local business.

"The morale in the community goes down when you can't trust your building being locked up at night, and you have to worry about someone being inside," said Campbell.

In the interview with the scooter shop owner, he says he'd like to see more police follow-ups with burglary cases.

The CPO says investigators are working to schedule those as often as possible.

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