DeKalb County police believe the recent rash of burglaries in Drew Valley may have come to a close.
Maj. James Conroy of the DeKalb County Police Department said beginning March 19, there have been nine burglaries reported in the Drew Valley neighborhood.
Police believe most of the break-ins, which occurred between April 24 and May 6, were connected to a group of kids.
“On May 7, we arrested three juveniles who were suspected in a majority of these burglaries,” Conroy said. “Since then they’ve stopped, except we had one incident, which was unrelated, on the 14th.”
Several other arrests have also been made in connection to the Drew Valley burglaries.
“Since these started, we arrested nine suspects in three separate incidents,” Conroy said.
Conroy said the recent property crimes in Drew Valley are not unique; other neighborhoods in the area have experienced break-ins as well. But what makes Drew Valley’s situation different is the way residents organized to communicate with each other to aid police.
“I don’t think that this particular neighborhood was being targeted. This neighborhood has a very active community association, so they communicate very effectively with each other,” Conroy said. “This is not the only area in our precinct where we’re having burglaries. They just communicate very effectively, which helps us.”
Sara Hansen is the vice president of the Drew Valley Civic Association and helped reorganize the community’s neighborhood watch program earlier this year.
Because neighbors were already working to get to know each other and keeping an eye out for anything suspicious, they were able to help put a stop to the burglaries, Hansen said.
“Having that system in place was very helpful and just reiterated some of the things we already knew,” Hansen said.
There are more than 800 homes in the Drew Valley neighborhood. Hansen said the group broke the neighborhood down into small blocks overseen by a block captain, who notifies people on the block about anything they might need to know.
“Once we kind of became aware of these break-ins happening, neighbors started paying attention,” Hansen said.
In addition to the old-fashioned way of getting to know your neighbors, Hansen said the group also posted alerts of suspicious activity to a social networking group called Next Door.
“That was really helpful because we basically set it up so you would get an urgent alert email sent to you directly,” Hansen said. “Really, neighbors were just being more aware.”
Conroy said he and other DeKalb officers attended community meetings with Drew Valley residents and did proactive patrols in the neighborhood to try to prevent more burglaries. He said they also sent undercover officers to the neighborhood in unmarked cars.
“But the key is we want residents to call 911 when they see something suspicious,” Conroy said. “I encourage everybody to get to know your neighbors, so if you see something that doesn’t belong, you call us.”
Though Drew Valley is in the city of Brookhaven, it is still under the jurisdiction of DeKalb County Police. Brookhaven’s Police Department is expected to be up and running this summer.
Brookhaven City Councilman Jim Eyre said he’s pleased with DeKalb County’s response.
“I think they clearly knew it was an issue and stepped up to provide the manpower they needed to put it to bed,” Eyre said.
Eyre, who represents Drew Valley on the City Council, said he believes the leaders of the future Brookhaven Police Department also have a good understanding of the neighborhoods’ needs.
“I think if nothing else they learned where some of the hotspots are and will devote resources as necessary,” Eyre said.
Conroy said even though it appears the burglaries in Drew Valley have calmed down, people still need to watch out for each other.
“I don’t want anyone to let their guard down. There could be a new group going in or it could be some of the same people,” Conroy said. “The majority of these people that were arrested were juveniles and most were released very soon after their arrest. But we do know who they are.”
Hansen, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2010, said nothing like this has happened since she moved in.
“Nothing’s happened for several years, it’s been pretty quiet, so it really got the neighbors’ attention,” she said.
Though the incidents made residents uneasy, they are confident the worst is over.
“I think we feel a lot better about it now than we were a couple weeks ago,” Hansen said. “It’s not something that you want to have to worry about.”