Macon police launch armed robbery task force

Macon Police Chief Mike Burns has launched a robbery task force to address the city’s escalating armed and commercial robberies, he announced Wednesday, the night of the task force’s first operation meeting.

There have been 68 robberies reported in Macon between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22 — 47 robberies in January and 21 incidents this month through Saturday, according to police statistics.

Last year, an average of 30 robberies took place each month, according to police.

In September 2007, when the monthly average was 25, officers conducted a similar task force on robberies, pulling about a dozen officers from their daily duties.

“Robberies are up from last year,” Burns told The Telegraph on Wednesday. “This plan is different as we are approaching (it) in a combination of ways. I cannot say how without compromising that plan.”

Burns said 38 officers, excluding patrol officers, have been pulled from various parts of the department to form the new detail.

“Naturally, other areas of the department will be affected by the officer reassignment,” he said, citing divisions of the department such as Youth and Intervention, Traffic, Investigations, Gang, Narcotics, the STRIKE Team and the Command Staff.

He would not comment on the length of the operation.

“The officers will concentrate on limiting criminal behavior and increasing the apprehension of violators,” Burns said. They will not answer calls for service, he said.

Burns said critical information needed to formulate an action plan was obtained following a recent review of crime analysis of robberies within the city.

Last year marked the highest number of robberies in the city in five years. There were 367 reports in 2008, according to police, 66 more than in 2007. In 2004, there were 253 incidents, statistics showed.

“I promised the first of the year we would have more special details to be proactive,” he said. “This is our second large operation. We have already had eight other smaller details addressing alcohol, robberies and breaking in automobiles.”

Media representatives were invited to attend the first five minutes of the session Wednesday but were not allowed to pose questions or interview officers in attendance. Burns was not present during that portion.

Lt. Robert Grabowski, supervisor of the special detail called “Operation Safe Business,” told the officers they would not get overtime for working on the detail, but their schedules would be adjusted.He asked them to “make the sacrifice” and remember why they joined the department.

“Everyone knows why we’re here. It’s because of the influx in armed robberies,” he said.

Recalling the childhood game of cops and robbers, Grabowski said, “The only difference is now they’re real robbers and they have real guns. But we have the upper hand. With the experience that we have in the room, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the upper hand and shouldn’t be able to win the game.”

Macon police continue to investigate robberies which occurred Monday at four city businesses, including three incidents where guns were used.

Staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed information to this report. Information from The Telegraph’s archives also was used.

To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.