Police, businesses hope new task force will help curb Macon robberies

A lot has changed at Ace Title Pawn on Shurling Drive since a man with a gun robbed the business last month.

Surveillance cameras have been mounted both inside and in the parking lot.

A sign has been posted on the door outlawing hoods, hats and sunglasses.

An electric door lock was installed Wednesday.

“If we can’t see their face, they’re not coming in,” said Angela Goff, the general manager, as she explained that employees now must buzz customers in to the business.

In her more than 14 years working in the title pawn business, Goff said she’s never been scared. Until now.

“I’m leery,” she said.

Macon crime statistics show an increase in robberies over the past several months with the majority of the bump including robberies at businesses and people being robbed on the street.

Last year marked the highest number of robberies in the city since 1999 when 404 were reported, according to police statistics.

There were 367 robberies reported in 2008, according to the statistics, 66 more than in 2007.

In response to the increase, Macon police launched a robbery task force Wednesday night.

The police have pulled 38 officers from various units within the department, excluding patrol, to form the task force.

No one was arrested by the task force Wednesday night, but officers wrote one citation for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and recovered a handgun, said Chief Mike Burns.

Goff said a heightened police presence might help deter would-be robbers and might give her employees and customers a feeling of security.

“If they’ve got to fill out reports, they can do it in my parking lot,” she said.

Goff said her employees are on edge after the Jan. 23 robbery and following a Valentine’s Day robbery at the company’s location on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins.

“They’re scared of everybody coming in,” she said, adding employees have received counseling since the robberies.

At Neal’s Food Mart, 1980 Gray Highway, owner Andy Shah said his employees do everything they can to deter robbers and keep themselves safe.

They have an operational video surveillance system. Cashiers are closed off in a booth at night and use a tiny opening to exchange money with customers.

After being robbed years ago, Shah installed burglar bars.

“I didn’t want to, but I didn’t have a choice,” he said.

But still, an armed man robbed the business on Feb. 9 after threatening an employee outside closing up for the night with a gun and forcing him to go inside.

Once inside the store, the robber grabbed another clerk by the neck and demanded money from the cash register.

Shah said it helps to see police officers ride through his parking lot. He saw an officer three or four times Wednesday.

But it might help even more for officers to drive by at night when businesses close to help deter robbers who target employees outside.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.