Robberies up in '06, but . . .
Decatur police say statistical increase last year signifies return to normal
By Seth Burkett
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Decatur saw an increase in robberies in 2006 over the previous year, with a slight rise in the use of firearms during the crimes, but the numbers only signify a return to normal, police said Thursday.
According to Decatur police figures, 133 robberies were reported in 2006, 28 more than in the year before.
But considering 152 were reported in 2004 and 137 in 2003, police said the bottom line is that violent crime took an unusual dip in 2005.
"It's not that there's been a huge increase in violent crime this year. It's just that last year was abnormally low. The number of violent crimes in 2006 was not above average for us," said Sgt. Rick Archer, a robbery/homicide investigator.
Lt. Nadis Carlisle, head of the Criminal Investigations Division, said crime has its ups and downs, but the statistics don't necessarily indicate a trend.
Police also emphasized that the number of real robberies committed is lower because more than a third of those reported over the past two years were determined to be unfounded, either because the crime committed didn't meet the statute definition of robbery, a false report was filed or victims failed to support their allegations.
"I would say a big number of our robberies that are unfounded are just thefts, so while the robbery report is unfounded, the theft part is not," said Detective Chris Jones, a robbery/homicide investigator.
Less often, police said, people file robbery reports in attempts to cover up other crimes.
Seventeen robbery cases resulted in arrests in 2006, two more than in 2005, said Lt. Chris Mathews, a police spokesman.
A major hurdle for police in robbery investigations is a lack of information supplied by victims.
"All victims need to try to cooperate with (the offender) and remember that their money and property is not worth their life, and also, try to remember what the offender looks like, note their travel direction and vehicle description and color," said Carlisle.
"If they can tell dispatchers, these things are very helpful to our officers en route to the scene. Victims sometimes get upset because they think we're asking a bunch of useless questions, but these questions have a reason."
Police did make an arrest in a high-profile series of robberies targeting restaurants between March and May.
Investigators charged Kaleem Ariff Tariq-Madyun, 22, of Madison, with six counts of first-degree robbery when they finally nabbed him May 12.
"The reason he was so successful was restaurants were just lax in their in-house security," Carlisle said. "People don't need to be taking trash out and smoking cigarettes with a door propped open. If people had used better security, it would have cut down on probably 75 percent of (the robberies), but a lot of restaurants made it easy on him by allowing him to come in through the back."
Decatur's only bank robbery of 2006 remains unsolved.
The tall black male, whose identity remains unknown, strolled into the First American Bank on Beltline Road Southwest, handed the teller a note claiming he was armed and casually walked away with all the cash the teller had.
Police are also investigating robberies at two Sixth Avenue Southeast businesses, Esmeralda's Jewelry on Dec. 8 and Novedades Margaret on Dec. 29. In both cases, three Hispanic men drew guns, cleaned out display cases and left the storeowners tied up. Police have not said whether they believe the same people were responsible for both robberies.
As for 2007, police are batting a thousand so far. As of Thursday, they had made three arrests in connection with the first three robberies reported this year.
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