ANKENYTOWN — The Knox County Sheriff’s Office is aggressively seeking closure to cases of home burglaries and theft throughout the county, as well as the Dec. 20 murder of Jean Davis, but deputies and detectives need help. That’s the message Knox County Sheriff David Barber gave to residents of Berlin and Pike townships Tuesday night.
ts of Berlin and Pike townships Tuesday night.
“We need all the help we can get,” Barber said. “The Knox County Sheriff’s Office can’t be everywhere. We cover 525 square miles.”
To facilitate a cooperative effort between the sheriff’s office and residents, Barber has created a Township Crime Awareness initiative by partnering with the Knox Township Association.
“This is a spin-off of the community meeting in Bladensburg,” Barber said. “People there wanted to know what or who they should be looking for. We decided the best way to share this information was through the township trustees, who see residents face to face.”
By creating an open line of communication with trustees, Barber said that creates a vehicle to convey information and host meetings like crime prevention and personal protection classes.
“This is a grassroots effort where trustees can also use the [From the grassroots] section of the Mount Vernon News, post fliers in their meeting halls or whatever means they use to communicate information important to their specific areas,” Barber said.
In taking this effort a step further, Barber announced the KCSO is in the process of creating a Facebook page that will allow for an instant exchange of information with county residents.
“We decided with a Facebook page we can post timely, fresh, current information about cars or people we are looking for,” Barber said. “We will also use this for snow emergencies and other public announcements.”
Barber said a township trustee volunteer and the IT employee at the KCSO will be designing the Facebook page, set to go live in the coming weeks.
Barber also announced plans to upgrade the current KCSO Web site, www.knoxcountysheriff.com.
“We will add a Township Crime Awareness Page to our Web site,” Barber said. “Part of that will include what we call a pin map.”
Once each month, Barber said, a pin map is updated in his office that gives a color-coded detail of where thefts, burglaries, vandalism and other crimes are occurring in the county. Once uploaded, residents will be able to click on their township and see what activities have taken place in their neighborhoods.
“Our current Web site is not very interactive, but these maps will be interactive and user friendly,” he said.
After explaining the TCA, Barber talked to around 25 residents and trustees to dispel some myths about crime.
“A lot of people think crime is associated with darkness,” Barber said. “This is not true. Most residential burglaries take place between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. This is because most people are at work and kids are at school.”
Barber also said there is no organized crime ring in the county. He said an increase in burglary reports does not constitute a crime wave. In fact, he said, some reports taken by deputies lack a sense of authenticity.
“Sometimes we just have to write down what we are told,” Barber said, “even if the missing items don’t seem to match what we are seeing in the residence.”
Hot commodities, he said, are firearms, flat-screen televisions, electronics, jewelry and cash. Barber reminded those in attendance to keep a log of serial numbers of all valuables, even a coffee pot, as well as photographs just in case the information is ever needed to return stolen property and to link a criminal with a crime.
“Unless we can link property to you or your house, we can’t recover or prosecute,” Barber said.
Despite an increase over the last year in burglaries and thefts, Barber said he feels blessed to live in a very safe county without a lot of violent crime.
“Knox County averages one murder a year,” he said. “When we do have a homicide, we are outraged. What we want from tonight is for you to raise your level of awareness.”
To do this, Barber suggests people lock the doors to residences and outbuildings, know their neighbors and their habits, join a neighborhood watch group and always be alert.
“I’m not saying I want everyone to be a vigilante. I just want you to be aware,” he said. “We live in 2010. There are a lot of influences in Knox County we have no control over.”
One member of the audience asked what a homeowner’s rights are to protect his family and property in regard to deadly force.
“I can’t tell you it’s OK to shoot someone,” Barber said. “Whatever you do, you will have to articulate that to a jury who will decide.”
Barber said recent burglaries and thefts were rather low in Pike and Berlin townships, but a few have been reported. However, one factor, he said, that has influence over those numbers is the area’s proximity to Morrow and Richland counties. Both counties are in tough economic situations and have seen extensive media coverage on cutbacks with law enforcement.
“Criminals read and watch the news,” Barber said. “Being out in rural areas, they might think they are still in Morrow or Richland County when they are, in fact, still in Knox County.”
Berlin Township trustees Steve Bechtel and Shaun Stephen were happy with the information provided Tuesday night and the KTA’s partnership with the KCSO.
“We will do anything to help out,” said Stephen.
Additional crime awareness meetings will be set up by township trustees, Barber said.