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.”

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