Repeated break-ins anger car dealer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 14, 2002

Where are the police?

It’s a question that James Smitherman, the owner of River City Motors on Jeff Davis Avenue, says he has asked himself a million times over. So far he hasn’t found any answers.

Tuesday night, several of River City’s vehicles were broken into and their radios stolen. It’s the second time within the past two months that burglars have hit River City, a fact that has left Smitherman feeling angry and frustrated.

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Smitherman’s dealership was not the only one hit that night.

Bama Motors, located just across the street, was also hit. Bama’s manager Russell Hardy said that a car at the dealership was heavily damaged and a radio stolen.

Hardy shares the dubious distinction with Smitherman of having been burglarized twice within the past two months. The burglaries occurred on the same nights.

Smitherman said that other businesses around the area of Jeff Davis and Broad Street have also been burglarized on a regular basis.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said Smitherman. “Where are our police? Where are all our tax dollars going?”

Smitherman showed The Times-Journal where the burglars entered the car dealership, a small alley located between Broad Street and Jeff Davis Avenue.

He said burglars cut the fence in the alleyway in order to enter the dealership.

“The question,” said Smitherman, “is why aren’t police checking these areas at night?”

“Why aren’t police shining spotlights down these alleyways? These are the most obvious places where the burglars will enter,” he said, noting that burglars had entered through the same place during the last burglary.

Smitherman said that to satisfy his curiosity, he rode around the area early Wednesday morning at approximately 1:30 a.m., checking to see if officers were adequately patrolling the area.

“Not once did they check these areas,” said Smitherman, pointing specifically to the alleyway. “They know stuff is going on here, and yet aren’t doing anything about it.”

Besides lack of protection, Smitherman said he was also fed up with the bureaucracy involved in filing a police report.

“Every time this happens, it takes forever. It is so time consuming,” Smitherman said.

When asked about the complaints, Capt. Joe Harrell, chief of detectives, cited a shortage of officers as a factor in some of the problems experienced by business owners in the area.

“Unfortunately, right now we are very short staffed, and it is just very hard to get to everything,” Harrell said.

Harrell noted that many times there are only three to four officers manning Selma’s streets at night.

“You should just listen to the [police] scanner and see the amount of stuff our officers have to respond to,” he said. “It is just very hard for our officers to be everywhere at once.”

Harrell said that one solution, which concerned business owners in the area could consider, would be to hire a private security guard.

“I would definitely ask them to consider this as an option,” Harrell said.