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COLUMN: Robinhood Trail Assault is the Outlier, Not the Norm

The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.


In the early hours of Sunday morning, a crime was committed inside the city limits of Statesboro not far from the Georgia Southern campus.  Based on information that has been released since the incident, a victim was beaten, kidnapped, and robbed in what is clearly a horrific assault. The Statesboro and Georgia Southern community has been vocal in expressing concern, rightfully, and has even gone to the extreme of blaming law enforcement and making it appear as though people can’t go to the grocery store in Statesboro in broad daylight without fear of a carjacking.

Before we go any further, this column is not to refute any claims the victim has made or minimize the severity of the assault. Whether the victim knew the perpetrators or not, what happened is atrocious and we should all be concerned that humans like the ones who assaulted this victim live among us.

After the Sunday morning incident, the Statesboro Police Department issued a statement on Facebook on Sunday evening around 8:00 p.m.:

Within hours, the victim’s mother and girlfriend had commented on the SPD Facebook post to share additional information. The mother said, specifically, that her son was beaten with a gun, held hostage, kidnapped, had his pet killed in front of him, and was beaten again and forced to drive the perpetrators to the ATM. Her obvious outrage was that it was not “simple ATM robbery.” She then pledged to contact the newspapers and arrange a meeting with the Dean of the school to raise awareness about these types of crimes happening in the community.

The commentary from the community that followed was frightening, to say the least. First and foremost, many members of the community showed that they aren’t capable of helping law enforcement by way of community policing. Instead of offering information and tips, the entire thread became a circus of how unsafe the community and how the police keep information about crime from the public, while we all watched a ping-pong match of shifting blame back and forth between the Statesboro Police Department and Georgia Southern.

First, Georgia Southern was under no legal obligation to alert students of what happened off-campus. They didn’t drop the ball and they aren’t lax in their efforts to protect students. Their public safety department patrols campus and campus only. All of the students who live off-campus fall under the jurisdiction of the SPD or the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.

Second, no law enforcement officer could have prevented the crime on Robinhood Trail unless he or she had, by chance, been passing by as these perpetrators were entering the home of the victim. No city or county is armed with the manpower to provide service like that.

So, let’s first look at the crime statistics:

Georgia Southern FY 2013 FY 2014 FY 2015
Murder 0 0 0
Robbery 3 2 3
Aggravated Assault 0 0 1
Burglary 6 8 5
Rape 4
**Information from 2016 Annual Report

**Part 1 crimes include murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, rape, motor vehicle theft, arson, and larceny theft.
It’s worth noting that Ogeechee Tech reported ZERO of these crimes for all three fiscal years.

In 2016, the City of Statesboro had 1,284 Part 1 crimes, which means residents have a 1 in 25 chance of becoming a victim of one of these crimes. If you include the students who are present 9 months out of the year, that number jumps to 1 in 40 and Part 1 crimes accounted for 2.5% of the calls in 2016.

% of Calls that are Part 1
Albany Region 2
Atlanta Region 58.4
Columbus Region 3.9
Macon 3.4
Savannah Region 4.2

*Numbers are for metro city and surrounding counties

Additionally, 1,284 may seem like a lot, but crime is actually down. A lot. Actually, by nearly 1,000 incidents annually compared to 7 years ago. Take a look at these numbers:

Part 1 Crimes
YEAR 2009 2,299
YEAR 2010 2,133
YEAR 2011 2,068
YEAR 2012 2,134
YEAR 2013 2,120
YEAR 2014 1,896
YEAR 2015
YEAR 2016 1,284

If you judge Statesboro on its population without students, the FBI reports that the cities of similar size have crime rates much higher:

  • City of Carrollton is 2x that of Statesboro
  • City of Dalton has almost 50% more violent crimes
  • Milledgeville, which is also a college town but has half the population, reports 50% more crimes
  • Vidalia, Waycross, Hinesville, and Dublin all report more violent crime than Statesboro.

Now, on to the release of information and the claims of secrecy.

If you take a few moments to peruse the Statesboro Police Department Facebook page, you’ll see a variety of posts ranging from PD history, officers meeting with kids in the community, life-saving stories, and even some requests for help from the community in identifying suspects and persons of interest. What is absent from all of these posts is an essay’s worth of details on any open investigations.  That seems to be the standard for Atlanta PDthe City of VidaliaSavannah, and so many others.

The repeated claims of a tight-lipped law enforcement community and the refusal to share important safety and crime information are false. As a member of the non-mainstream media in Southeast Georgia, I’ve not found it difficult to obtain information from law enforcement in Bulloch County. I’ve lived and worked in other places where that is not the case, but a simple phone call will usually get anyone the information they need with regard to their safety and incidents in the community.

Moreover, every weekday, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office releases an incident and booking report to the media outlets across the county – print and television. The arrests include all the municipalities, Georgia Southern PD, and Georgia State Patrol, and the incident reports include calls for service with all the pertinent information, barring domestic violence victims. That information is published here on AllOnGeorgia and with the county legal organ.  The Statesboro Police Department also has a fairly new website which allows the community to look at incidents across the city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Let’s also not forget that the City of Statesboro has 31,000 residents, add another 50,000 to entail all of Bulloch County, and Georgia Southern’s student body is 20,000 deep, but only 8,000 people follow the Statesboro Police Department for information and 9,500 follow the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office. And did you know that you can listen to the police scanner onlineThe information people are shouting they never hear about is right at their fingertips.

Whether or not the elected officials in the community promote and share these statistics is a completely separate issue, but to claim the information is not available is simply not true.

Remember: Crime is not going away no matter how many officers are employed. Evil does exist and you will always be  your own first line of defense. Don’t allow yourself to have a false sense of security – anywhere – but don’t panic because something bad happens in the community. Just be aware of your surroundings and keep tabs on things going on in your area. And when something does happen, try to avoid putting law enforcement in a position to waste time defending their protocol to the public and don’t jump on the bandwagon of spreading panic. You don’t need a bulletbroof vest go have breakfast at RJ’s.

So, relax. Statesboro really isn’t that bad.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

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