The Havana police department hosted nearly 50 law enforcement officers from various agencies throughout South Georgia and Northwest Florida on Thursday, March 28th. Led by Decatur County, GA Sheriff Wiley Griffin and Havana Chief Tracy Smith, the group from around 17 agencies offered ‘intel’ or information about crime trends occurring throughout the region.
Decatur County’s office has been investigating aggravated assaults and metal thefts that have caused major damage to agriculture machinery, said Sheriff Griffin. Jackson County, FL law enforcement officials said they, too, were plagued with thefts of mowers and other equipment that were being sold for scrap metal.
A member of one Florida agency said a series of similar crimes has been showing up throughout the nation that may involve a wide number of unsolved murders, including several in Florida. Tallahassee police have been addressing holiday burglaries of college apartments in which car keys have been removed from the premises with the thieves returning after the holidays and stealing cars.
Several units reported problems with a group of about 80 people known as the Rainbow People, living in a national forest who target area Wal-Marts for thefts. Several of them have been given Trespass Warnings not allowing them to return to the facilities, say police.
A representative of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that there was an organized group targeting businesses to illegally solicit money for the local sheriff’s offices. Many agencies told of financial crimes. Donalsonville recently had a bank robbery in early March in which the perpetrators led police on a high speed chase. Some of the money was recovered, they said.
A new problem in the area is thefts of genetically-engineered seed, chemicals and herbicides from growers, Decatur County reported. The bags can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, they said.
As metal prices maintain high prices, there are groups casing fields for equipment containing copper. What might bring $100 for the metal at a scrap metal yard can cause thousands of dollars in damage, said Sheriff Griffin.