For a certain element in Glynn County, Hurricane Irma’s onslaught represented a prime opportunity to profit at the expense of the rest of us.
It will probably come as little surprise to folks to learn there was an uptick in crimes of opportunity such as burglary and theft in conjunction with the powerful storm. However, the rate of burglaries and thefts surrounding the calamity caused by Irma was significantly down compared with the rate of such crimes that accompanied the impact of Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016, according to Glynn County Police Department statistics.
A total of 35 burglaries and 20 thefts were reported in the 10-day period from Sept. 8-18 surrounding Irma. By comparison, county police took 58 burglary reports and 29 theft reports in the 10-day period from Oct. 5-15 surrounding Matthew last year.
Glynn County Interim Police Chief John Powell said the law enforcement community applied lessons learned last year during Hurricane Matthew, the first major storm to hit the Golden Isles since Hurricane Dora in 1964.
“In my opinion, one burglary is too many,” Powell said. “But this was certainly way less than we had before. We tried to be proactive about it. Unfortunately, when events like these take place that are out of the norm, criminals are going to try to move in and take advantage of that.”
Police have made five arrests related to burglaries that occurred around the arrival of Irma, which pummeled the Golden Isles with storm surge flooding and damaging winds from the night of Sept. 10 through the afternoon of Sept. 11. Irma prompted Glynn County officials to order a mandatory evacuation beginning Sept. 8 and ending on Sept. 14.
Blayden Skyler Tyson, 17, Dillon Augustus Head, 51, and Marion Johnson all were arrested for their alleged roles in a Sept. 11 break-in at the Dollar General at 2135 Perry Lane Road. Tyson and Head remained Friday in the Glynn County Detention Center, both charged with second degree burglary.
Police said Adam Jake Dent, 26, was arrested Sept. 14 and is a suspect for his alleged role in at least five burglaries on St. Simons Island. He remained Friday in the county jail, charged with two counts of burglary, as well as willful obstruction of law enforcement and making terroristic threats.
Police arrested Jonathan Dewayne Luke and Cherish Calhoun late on the night of Sept. 14, charging the two with possession tools for the commission of a crime and loitering and prowling. Luke, 26, remained Friday in the county jail.
“We’ve made arrests on some of these burglaries already, and we will continue to pursue those responsible,” Powell said.
Of the 35 burglaries reported surrounding Irma, seven occurred on the island and 28 on the mainland. There were 19 thefts reported on the mainland in that time, and one on the island. But comparison, in the same 10-day period for August, there were eight burglaries reported countywide — six on the mainland and two on the island. There were actually more thefts reported from Aug. 8-18 than during the same time period in September, with 32 on the mainland and one on St. Simons Island.
The county daily police activity logs for last month show that many residents discovered they had been burglarized in the days following Sept. 14, when residents who evacuated were allowed to return.
“We did have a little bit more because people will take advantage of that,” Powell said. “As far as a huge crime spree, fortunately we didn’t see it as much as what you think it might be under those situations.”
After Hurricane Matthew swept offshore of Glynn County between Oct. 6-7, 2016, county police reported 30 burglaries over the next three days. One man was arrested Oct. 9, charged with burglarizing two businesses within a span of a couple of hours on Cypress Mill and Community roads. The 58 burglaries reported from Oct. 5-15 surrounding Matthew included 51 on the mainland and seven on the island. That compares to just 17 burglaries reported Sept. 5-15 of 2016, with two on the island and 15 on the mainland.
Brunswick Police also saw a significant increase in burglaries as a result of Irma, department statistics show. During the Sept. 8-14 time of the mandatory evacuation, police reported 24 burglaries in the city. During that same time frame for August, there were four burglaries. Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones could not be reached for comment.
During Irma, numerous law enforcement agencies worked together to help present a strong police presence during the evacuation period, Powell said. Using Brunswick High School as a central location for first-responders from various agencies to rest, eat and regroup, officers worked in 12-hour shifts throughout, he said.
Participating agencies included Glynn County Police, Brunswick Police, the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources agents, College of Coastal Georgia police and Glynn County Schools police. Soldiers from the Army National Guard also were stationed throughout the county.
“Being able to establish an emergency operations center for first responders at the high school just helped out tremendously,” Powell said. “They would work 12 hours, go in, rest, eat, and go out again. We really appreciate the partnership with the school district and the school police. We had a tremendous footprint our there, as far as law enforcement is concerned. It was really a concerted effort.”