Number of business burglaries drops in city|[4/17/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 17, 2006

Most cases still open, though.

After confronting a sudden string of break-ins to begin the new year, Vicksburg Police have reported only one burglary at a local business in March and the first half of April.

Most of the 38 burglaries, thefts and attempted break-ins reported at local businesses in January, however, remain officially open.

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Darrah Williams, 38, 742 Dabney Ave., was arrested on a weapons charge Feb. 1 and charged in five of those cases. His arrest came just over five months after he finished serving a 10-year prison sentence for a string of burglaries dating to 1988. Also charged with a January break-in was Charles Lomax, 49, 3116 Second St., arrested Feb. 6 and charged with stealing $900 in boneless chuck steak from Ergon Marine on Jan. 8.

Police have reported eight commercial burglaries in the two and a half months since Williams’ arrest, seven of them in February, and made six other burglary arrests for crimes committed in that span. Three of those – Johnny Ailes, 25, 901 Speed St. Apt. 2, Lewis Yates, 36, 712 Speed St. and Christopher Galloway, 32, 4720 Benard Drive – were charged with the burglary of Dykes Furniture on Washington Street on Feb. 6. Another, Douglas Howard, 40, 1603 Military Ave., was on probation from the Mississippi Department of Corrections when he was arrested Jan. 27 and charged with possession of burglary tools after running when police spotted him near a home on Halls Ferry Road with a bag of equipment. Howard has a history of burglary and grand larceny dating to 1988, according to police records, including arrests on four counts of business burglary in 1995, one in 1998 and a conviction for burglary in 2000.

Two other men with rap sheets – Lash Rogers, 27, 2615 Letitia St., and Lee Edward Yates, 41, who shares an address with his brother, Lewis Yates – were arrested in February for a residential burglary in the 700 block of Speed Street. Rogers was also hit with drug charges.

&#8220I will say with the individuals we’ve arrested, it is my belief there will be a significant decrease in the number of burglaries,” said Police Chief Tommy Moffett, specifically singling out Williams and Howard as major arrests because of their burglary records.

&#8220You may only charge them with two or three burglaries, but they may have committed 25 or 30 in a week’s time and you don’t have proof,” he said. &#8220It’ll give a bad appearance to your stats because you don’t have closure on all of them, but at the same time, you’re convinced you have the perpetrator.”

The January tally was about triple the 2005 monthly average for businesses burglaries. More than half were in a square-mile area near Interstate 20, encompassing Mission 66, Indiana Avenue, North and South Frontage roads and Halls Ferry Road.

Three businesses – CDS Home Care, CitiFinancial on Indiana Avenue and CompUDoc Inc. on Clay Street – had multiple break-ins or attempted break-ins during the month. Several doctors’ offices and other health-related businesses near each other on Mission 66 and Mission Park Drive were also targeted on different nights.

Thus far, Williams remains a primary suspect in many of those cases, though he has been charged with only five during the month. Four of those – Toney’s Restaurant, the dental office of Dr. Robert Sadler and CDS Home Care, all within blocks on Mission 66, and The Ivy Place on North Frontage Road – were reported early on Jan. 31, the day before his arrest. Williams was also charged with breaking into River Outfitters on Halls Ferry Road on Jan. 12.

Charles Toney said his restaurant’s location put it in &#8220perfect condition to be robbed,” and applauded the police for making an arrest in his case so quickly. Williams was charged with breaking into the building on Feb. 2, two days after the burglary at Toney’s and the other businesses nearby.

&#8220It brings a lot to us,” said Toney, who worked as a Warren County Sheriff’s deputy from 1980 until 1987. &#8220They need to throw the key away, and maybe these other guys that are thinking about doing a burglary will think twice.”

Williams was not charged with two other burglaries in the same shopping complex on Jan. 12 or with the earlier burglary of CDS Home Care, which reported its front window broken and $40 missing on Jan. 25. Williams is accused of taking $240 from CDS on Jan. 31, but none of the other four businesses he was accused of burglarizing reported anything missing.

&#8220When all that was going on, we didn’t have any valuable stuff in the building,” said Toney, who had been planning to add an alarm system when his building was burglarized and has installed one since. &#8220We’ve got everything covered that could be covered.”

Vicksburg Police have sent fingerprints and shoeprints to the Mississippi Crime Lab, said Capt. Mark Culbertson, and are investigating a number of other burglaries that could lead to more charges against Williams.

&#8220There’s no doubt in my mind Darrah Williams did a ton of burglaries,” Moffett said, though he stopped short of assuring future charges.

Nearly half of the seven commercial break-ins in February were reported on North and South Frontage roads on consecutive nights, Feb. 19 and 20, at New Health Chiropractic Center on North Frontage Road and Doc’s Wholesale and Watkins’ Nursery on South Frontage Road. There was one business burglary reported within the city limits in March, at the Relax Inn on Walnut Street on March 19. Octavius Zachery, 28, 109 Freedom Lane, was free on bond after being arrested and charged with that burglary last week. Police reported no business burglaries in April.

A suspect in an armed robbery at Ameristar Shell Station on Washington Street on March 29 also has not been arrested.