Break-ins anger car dealers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002

It seems to have become an all too familiar story.

Car dealerships and automobile repair shops in the area of Jeff Davis Avenue and Broad Street have suffered a number of break-ins in recent days, and the managers have been left wondering why and how it could have happened.

Russell Hardy, the manager of Bama Motors, reported that three automobiles were stolen from his dealership on Friday of last week. But, he added, that was not the most amazing part of the story.

“When we came the next morning, we noticed that our front gate was knocked right out, and it was almost laying in the middle of the street,” Hardy said. “What amazed me was that the police, who were supposed to be driving in the area, didn’t even seem to have noticed it.”

James Smitherman, the manager of River City Motors, tells a similar story. On Monday, Smitherman reported that two radios were stolen after burglars broke into several of his dealership’s vehicles.

“I just don’t understand it,” Smitherman said. “Where were our police? How could they not have noticed anything? We are all citizens who pay our taxes, and I think it is only fair that we feel protected in our own city.

“We really need to do something about this, because the problem just seems to keep happening over and over again.”

Smitherman added that other dealerships in other areas of the city have also been burglarized on a regular basis. “Unfortunately, we just don’t seem to have enough police out there protecting our area,” he said.

Finally, there is Eric Mott, the manager of George’s Paint and Body Shop, who reported having several tires stolen from his business on Thursday of last week.

“I definitely agree we need more police in the area,” Mott said. “All this just seems to be going on around this corner, and nothing much is being done about it.”

When asked about the incidents, Assistant Police Chief Robert Jacobs of the Selma Police Department said that one possible reason for police not being able to respond to all incidents is due to a current man power shortage at the department.

“I will be really honest with you, we do have a shortage of officers right now,” Jacobs said. He added that during night hours, there are usually five to six officers patrolling the streets.

“Sometimes we can add more, when the situation really calls for it, but right now we definitely have a lot more vacancies to fill,” he said.

Jacobs explained that the department is currently trying to recruit new officers, but he added “that it is a long and drawn out process.”

“We want to recruit the best possible officers we can,” he said. “We do have a lot of people applying, but unfortunately, a lot of them are just not qualified to handle the job.

“And we don’t want people out on our streets who are not qualified applicants.”

Jacobs, when asked about funding for the department from the city, said that he thought the city was doing “the best job it could” under the present circumstances.

“Really, right now, our department just has to try and recruit the most qualified people we possibly can,” he said. “That is the most important thing we can do at this time.”