Regina Agro sits on the front steps of the Old Town home she and her husband purchased last year. The Fort Lauderdale couple had planned to move to Selma, but have since reconsidered after a number of thefts saw a number of valuable items, furniture and even lightbulbs stolen. -- Desiree Taylor

Florida couple reconsiders move to Selma after thefts

Published 1:23am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

As movers walked throughout the massive structure, surveying the home and packing up final furnishings and belongings, Regina Agro looked out her living room window with dismay. Soon, she and her husband, Louis, would be leaving Selma for good.

As victims of a recent crime of property theft — the removal of their period 600- pound bedroom set, washer and dryer, towels, laundry soap and light bulbs among others — the couple are so disheartened and shocked, they’ve decided to put their future moving plans to the area on hold.

“Who steals light bulbs?” Regina said. “It’s more understandable when it’s a crime of opportunity or it’s a crime where they’re going to take something for a quick sale. But the stuff that was a quick sale, they left; they basically cleaned out every cupboard they could in the house … it erodes your sense of security … it’s only a short skip and a jump to violent crime … it’s enough.”

Regina said she moved in her furniture last summer and believes that’s when the house was broken into.

“We just sort of moved in … our intention was to sort of come here and spend some time, and bring friends and family … I actually like this house,” Regina said. “I’ve had a nice time when I’ve been here … from my perspective I really envisioned that it was a very good place to invest money … it has the ability to have a forward progress into being something substantial with the right amount of money.

“To me, the victim of those crimes is not only the people it happens to, but it’s the community because now you lose someone that was contributing,” Regina said. “That’s the overall thing that I think, becomes bad for a community … it’s really a shame.”

Covering more than 4,000 square feet, the home’s period interior décor, high ceilings and winding staircase are reminiscent of 20th century Victorian and Queen Anne south, are what drew the Agros, hailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Selma.

“I grew up in Philadelphia and I always wanted to purchase a historic home,” Regina said. “I found this home listed on a website … and it had a lot of its original features — like the original fireplaces and the woodwork and the doors and the staircase … there were a lot of elements that were left here … we flew into Montgomery and came to see this house about two weeks after I’d found it online … we closed about a month later and we started renovating it; so we did all new bathrooms and kitchen and everything.”

The home, Regina said, would serve as a getaway destination for the couple and their 8-year-old daughter.

“This was sort of going to be … a slower kind of pace area for us to come and have family time … just a place where we could get away and spend some more low-key time,” Regina said. “We just finished the interior the end of 2011. The first time I sat in the house was between Christmas and New Year’s.”

Regina said the reason she chose Selma was because of its growth potential — with the riverfront development and incoming businesses.

“From my generation, it’s not the same mind set of ‘oh that place has a bad reputation’ or any sort of negative connotation,” Regina said. “There was a lot of things I saw when I started to research Selma … a lot of good trends in the right direction … from traveling sort of in different areas of the country, I felt when I looked at Selma as a town, it has humongous undeveloped waterfront, it has a lot of potential for the right people to bring in money, to spend money here to redevelop; there’s great opportunity for businesses to be successful here.”

Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said it’s unfortunate what’s happened to the Agros.

“Burglary occurred over a span of time — they (Agros) weren’t in this home for a period of time,” Riley said. “Someone would have had to see these items being taken out of the home; when you’re away for a long period of time, that’s how things can get past people; I feel for anyone that has been a victim of a crime … but the cold hard facts are that people steal for a living.”

Riley said overall, property crime in the city has decreased.

“From year to date, in March 2011, we had 172 burglaries, this year for March 2012 (January to March) we had 82 burglaries — we’ve cut it almost in half,” Riley said. “Things are happening … people are being dealt with … we’ve put a lot of people in jail.”

And though Regina feels the area is rampant with property crime, Riley disagrees, and said residents of Old Town are vigilant in watching out for their neighbors.

“It’s far from the truth that Selma is an area full of property theft,” Riley said. “There’s property theft going on everywhere. When the economy is like it is — unemployment is high, theft will spike. People will take an opportunity to steal.” Riley said if you see something suspicious do not hesitate to call 9-1-1, even anonymously.

“You don’t have to leave a name, just direct us to where we need to be,” Riley said. “If you don’t get involved, there’s a cause and an effect. We’re working diligently to make sure perpetrators are punished for their crime.”

  • e1948eab74

    Regina: NL’s last comment (25th 11:13 PM) also shows there is quite a bit of ignorance in Selma to go along with the crimes.

    Sorry for your problem and agree with everything you said and would like to say a lot more myself, but, what the heck it won’t help things to improve here. These nuts still can’t understand the Civil War ended a long time ago, white’s don’t own any slaves here , 1965 was for the good all over the US except Selma. Selma has only gone backwards and not of these Civil Rights people flocking to Selma have ever nor ever will do a Damn thing for this area. Only rehash 1965 and keep everyone stirred to a boiling point. I said there wasn’t any slaves here and I might be wrong , for, as I go in certain parts of City I see the white dolls walking 10 to 20 feet n front of their black male friends. Makes you wonder hmmmmmm. Most (not all) slaves were probably treated a little better than everything in that senario.
    God Bless your family and Good luck!

  • D-man

    $700,000 spent on undercover drug raid huh? where did most of that money really go is what id like to know. every penny should be audited.

    that kind of money should have knocked out the big money trafficers, yet recently someone gets shot and killed and yet another daylight hour breakin… drugs make for very risky behaviour… daylight equals risk.. and car bombs? tsk tsk tsk

    however, i sincerely hope this wasnt on the front page… bad for business garbage on the front page… prospective businesses etc..

    stole a heirloom bed? daylight? the thief has been in this house before, even in the bedroom… jmo

    maybe the insurance will help them recover… yet who truly recovers from home invasions? too bad there wasnt a home recording security camera well hidden on a backup power source…

    • reginatoland

      You are probably 100% correct in your assumption that the people who robbed my home were in it previously. My house was not ransacked, nothing moved or damaged that wasn’t specifically what they were after. The facts appear that whomever committed this crime was previously in my home, saw things they wanted and strategically planned and waited for the perfect opportunity to collect those things when my neighbor was out of town for a few days. I believe the people who committed this crime never anticipated the amount of media attention I would bring to the subject. It’s unfortunate it has to be on the front page but my intentions are not purely to recover my belongings as much as they are to shed light on a problem in Selma. After this happened to me, EVERY single person I spoke to had a story to share whereby either they or someone close to them has been a victim of property crime in Selma. In EVERY instance they or the person they knew never received any satisfaction in the return of their property or apprehension of the perp. This is what I find so unacceptable. I adore the friends I have made in Selma, the great neighbors that I’ve met, the friendly faces who wave when they pass by. It’s time to say that its enough and for the government of Selma to act. I don’t want “lip service;” I want action. To not bring attention to this matter is to be accepting of it and the consequences. People need to demand action from their government and if they don’t get it than they need to take action themselves. When I never got a call back from the police department after they went to my home to investigate, when my phone messages to the police department didn’t receive a response I decided to try other avenues to get the photos of my belongings out there. I encourage the people of Selma to demand more from their local government to change the things they do not like. When I didn’t get a call back I went to the police station and asked for help and challenged the police department to act – they did. The detective was at my home twice in two days. He communicated to me all his efforts to follow every lead and investigate the matter. This is all I can ask of him. I think getting more media attention for this crime has caused the police to take a second look. I still think Selma is a great place with great potential. Unfortunately, I feel uneasy to spend time in that home knowing it was essentially stalked for its contents. I don’t intend to be the victim of a crime and not stand up for myself or take action to find the people who did it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and I plan to make a lot of noise.

      • popdukes12

        reginatoland..I had to do my own investigation to recover my stolen SUV. The idiot forged one of my checks from the glovebox and used one of my business cards to get it cashed at a gas station. He actually wrote his girlfriend’s telephone number on the back of the check for ID, I called her and told her I was drunk when I loaned him my truck and couldn’t remember his name. She told me where the truck was. Sometimes you have to do the work yourself. pops

  • e1948eab74

    Car bomb on Monday of two vehicles at 1004 Third Avenue
    next to my rental house and 2 houses from mine hasn’t even made our paper even though a reporter was on site.
    Coverup from Public??????? Also I was told of possible similar situation Sunday or Monday in 1000 Block of First Avenue, only 2 Blocks down. The Public needs to know of all crimes when they happen so they can be more alert even
    though it isn’t good news or what we want to hear.

  • popdukes12

    I lived in north Selma and had my car (which was in my driveway) broken into three times in six months and my house broken into once in the last year I was there. This activity along with the cost of having to have my childern in private school (thanks to Rose), sent us packing. Educated people that have a portable skill set are just not going to endure that situation long. Looking at the picture, this happened in the 600 block of Mabry St. which used to be one of the safest areas of town. pops

  • reginatoland

    Not only do I live in Ft. Lauderdale but I’m from New York City, and yes i’ve seen my share of crime. Never the likes of this kind of treachery, to be able to remove an entire bedroom set, washer dryer and whatever else they took in the middle of the day and yes with an ADT alarm speaks volumes of what your dealing with in that town. We have homes in several little towns around the country and not one incident in 15 years. The friends we met in Selma are some of the warmest friendliest people I have ever encountered. But theres an element in that town that needs to be dealt with or your gonna be living in a war zone!!!!

    • Shane Gaut

      Regina, I agree with you 100 percent. I relocated to Selma five years ago for an employment opportunity. I love my occupation and have befriended some of the nicest people on the planet here. Luckily (and knock on wood), I haven’t personally experienced a serious violent or nonviolent crime but I know people who have. You learn to be extraordinarily vigilant in your day to day life. Let me say that I along with the majority of Selma apologize for your unsuccessful enterprise in our town. Hopefully one day we’ll be prepared to properly welcome a family like yours. I quote you in saying “theres an element in that town that needs to be dealt with or you’re gonna be living in a war zone!!!!” Good luck to you and your family Regina.

      • reginatoland

        Thanks Shane. I haven’t given up on Selma. I feel a connection to the people I’ve met there and have enjoyed my time there despite a series of unfortunate events. I hope this situation effects a change. More importantly, I hope my efforts to get this matter some media attention send a message to the people who commit these crimes that people aren’t going to accept it. I hope someone sees that giant bed somewhere and the people who did this are apprehended for felony theft. I don’t care so much about the stuff; I care about my neighbors who can’t leave a lawn mover in their front yard without it being taken or rest easy when they leave town for vacation because they are “worried their home will be robbed and they will have nothing to come back to.” I feel a connection to my neighbors and in sticking up for myself; I feel as if I am sticking up for them as well. The past couple of days I heard a lot of the same, “the police don’t do anything,” “no one will come forward,” “no one cares this stuff happens all the time.” Maybe people really do feel this way. But, I care about my home, my neighbors and its a terrible situation. When I became the victim of a crime in Selma I unwillingly became a member of a group of people who have had enough. Everyone handles situations differently but I have no intention to back down from the low-lifes who robbed my home. I will do everything in my power to find them. I wish you all the best.

  • Dixie

    I’m sorry their experience with Selma was not a good one. Crime is everywhere and sadly we are not immune from it. I hope their missing items are located and returned to them.

  • nl

    Well, having lived in Fort Lauderdale myself, attending HS there and a couple of years at Broward JC, I am amazed that anybody from there would be surprised that there are not nice people in this world. I’d take Selma over Ft Lauderdale any day, for many reasons.
    Also, why, with home security systems so affordable, did they not have one put in? A security system is especially desirable if you’re away a lot, as appears to be the case, no matter where you live. My system costs me far less than my satellite tv subscription and has served well.
    I do sympathise, with this family, and what they’ve been through, but, IMO, it’s something that did not have to happen and I wish they would give the city a second chance and not dismiss the whole town because of the actions of one or two thugs. BTW, I’ve been “hit” myself, (on the one day I went off and did not arm the system!!!) so I know whereof I speak! It happened, it’s over and I am still in Selma, enjoying MY beautiful home and the life here. I hope these nice people can find some peace about this experience. For your own sake, you have to forgive and let it go!

    • reginatoland

      In the future before you comment on an article you should know the facts. Commenting on things of which you clearly know nothing about only magnifies your ignorance. My home did have a functioning alarm system with motion sensors linked to a cellular network and powered by a battery back-up in case burglars tried to cut the system’s power. The facts of this crime is that my home was robbed during a short window of time when my generous and caring neighbors who look after my home were out of town. Despite Chief Riley’s comments that my home was left almost abandoned during a long period of time; well that’s simply nonsense. The people who committed this crime carefully stalked my home and planned this robbery. This is not a crime of opportunity this was a well thought out crime committed by a group of individuals. A group that must have been familiar with my home and knowledge to surpass my alarm system according to representatives from ADT. If this were a random crime of opportunity I would be more willing to accept the outcome. However, I have no intention to be prey to desperate individuals.
      The reality is that despite comments to the contrary that crime percentages in Selma are extremely high compared to other areas of the country. The amount of residents that have been victimized by property crime is extremely high in your area. If everyone wants to continue to make excuses that its not the case or not pursue the matter then these things will continue to happen. I am not the type of individual who sticks my head in the sand and pretends that things I don’t like simply don’t exist. I will continue my quest to publicize what happened to me in Selma until such a time that I get satisfaction or I simply don’t care anymore. I will continue to shout from the rooftops that some low-life has my belongings. If other people choose to be victimized and not continually call the police department and demand justice for return of their belongings or apprehension of the criminals who stole their patio furniture, copper wire from their AC units, lawn movers, leaf blowers, motorcycles, etc. than that is their right. However, don’t be ridiculous and say that because I live in Fort Lauderdale I should be accepting of the fact that there are “not nice people in the world.” It makes you sound like a moron!
      Regina Agro

      • adriancharley

        Hello Regina -

        I spoke with you awhile ago regarding your beautiful home. I am in Maryland/Washington DC and I have been actively looking to move to Selma. I had the chance to visit, and I to absolutely fell in love with the place. I heard some negative reports, but I put them aside because I know that every area has its undesirable corners. I really had the sense that the area where your home is located would be a wonderful place to live. I have received several call backs for interviews and really had planned on making the move official this summer. I really am disheartened by this article. The town where I live in Maryland is very nice. I walk my dog alone at midnight and never even think of anything happening. My reasons for wanting to move there are exactly the same as those that you mentioned. I am glad and sad to read your story. I hope that you get some relief.

      • adriancharley

        I wanted to add that the people that I met and talked to were absolutely wonderful!! Without knowing me or anything about me I was invited to sit at a table with someone at a local restaurant because there was a long wait, met people who lived in neighborhoods that I liked who actually took time to talk to me for more than a few seconds, was invited to attend events, and even told to go on over to someone’s house to take a look at it without them being there! The realtor that I worked with was amazing and went above and beyond anything that I expected. I had other realtors in Montgomery, Talladega, Wilcox County, and other small towns that would have loved to have sold a home, but did not do a fraction of what the one in Selma did. I included that because I know that some will say that some cynics will say she did it to make a sale, but like many of the people I met, she was genuine. The entire sales staff at Walmart came over to the register where I was checking out to try to give me directions to the nearest Starbucks! What happened to you is absolutely awful, but I want to make sure that I acknowledge the people who were some of the kindest that I have ever met.

      • nl

        Regina, your tone and general nastiness makes me glad that Selma will be seeing the back of you. Please don’t let the door hit you on the way out! You simply affirm my opinion that the sort of people I knew during the years I was in Ft Lauderdale are NOT people I’d choose to live with.
        goodbye and stay gone!!!

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