Thieves cutting out with lawn mowers in Bibb County

Jimmy Michael had spent a June morning working outside and was inside his home eating lunch when he saw someone peering through a window.

He went outside and talked with two men who offered to blow debris off his roof. He declined.

Moments later, as the men were pulling out of his Dogwood Circle driveway, Michael discovered that his gas-powered string trimmer was missing.

Within 30 minutes, it had been pawned for $100.

Michael’s not the only such victim in recent weeks. Nearly a dozen reports of stolen yard equipment — lawn mowers, trimmers and the like — were filed with Macon police between July 15 and July 20.

Three similar reports have been filed with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office in the past month, Capt. Mike Smallwood said.

The thefts in both Macon and Bibb County have been widespread and in random locations. Reports were filed in three of the police department’s four precincts last week.

In six of the cases, the only thing taken was lawn equipment.

Macon police Lt. David Freeland said the thefts are seasonal, but the city isn’t seeing an abnormally high surge in reports.

“We know that when the weather gets warm and the grass starts to grow, we’ll see an increase in these types of thefts,” Freeland said.

The thieves typically are either taking the equipment to get money by pawning the items or for use in starting their own lawn care services, he said.

While many items are stolen from plain view, several lawn mowers have been taken recently from crawl spaces underneath houses and inside backyard sheds. Some of the thieves broke locks to gain access to the areas, according to Macon police reports.

Freeland said it’s not uncommon for would-be thieves to make contact with their victims, asking to perform yard work using the intended victims’ equipment.

Later, knowing where the equipment is kept, they come back and steal the equipment, he said.

At age 83, James H. Wooten, of Pierce Avenue, said he mows his own yard out of concern that if he pays someone else to do it, they may very well come back and take his equipment.

Still, Wooten walked to his shed last weekend, noticed a cart out of place and saw that his self-propelled push mower was gone.

“I can’t figure out how anybody knew it was in that shed,” he said.

Wooten admits the shed was unlocked at the time his lawn mower was taken.

Yet, “If they want it, they’ll break (the lock) off,” he said.

The next day, someone rifled through the glove compartment of his car.

“They’re brazen folks,” he said.

Michael said he left his push mower, blower and string trimmer on his driveway when he went inside for a break. He was able to write down the tag number of the truck driven by the men who’d offered to blow off his roof.

He called 911 and later gave police the serial number of the missing trimmer, valued at about $600, and an accessory that also was stolen.

Michael said he keeps the instruction manuals and serial numbers for major purchases in a notebook.

“That way, it’s easy to find whatever I need,” he said.

Daniel Young, 45, of Cherry Avenue, and Fred Lee Roberts, 51, of Delwood Drive, were charged a few days after the theft, police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said.

Freeland said lawn mowers and string trimmers are attractive items for thieves because they’re easy to steal and pawn.

“It’s an accessible item to steal,” he said. “It’s an easy target depending on where you keep it.”

To prevent theft, Freeland said lawn equipment should be kept out of sight from the street.

“Secure it in the best way you can,” he said.

While police do find stolen lawn equipment from time to time, it’s often hard to match the equipment to its owner, Freeland said.

“And a lot of people don’t know their serial numbers,” he said.

Even if a person doesn’t know the serial number, distinguishing marks also aid police in returning stolen items to owners. Freeland suggested that equipment owners also etch initials in a hidden spot.

In Michael’s case, knowing the serial number for his trimmer and accessory helped police identify his equipment.

“Fortunately for me, I got it back,” he said.

Since the theft, Michael said his family has started paying more attention to vehicles coming in and out of the neighborhood.

His neighbors are considering starting a Neighborhood Watch group, he said.

Wooten still is waiting to be reunited with his push mower, but he said he doesn’t have much hope that he will see it again.

“I doubt it,” he said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.