PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Prattville Police say using air surveillance has helped make arrests following a string of vehicle break-ins across the city.
“35 days ago we started having a rash of B and E’s - what we call breaking and entering - and at that time we started having game plans of how we’d fight and combat it,” said Chief Mark Thompson, Prattville Police. “Trying to think outside the box about stuff.”
Police say in that 35 day span, between 50 to 60 vehicles were broken into with thousands of dollars worth of electronics, clothing, money, and guns stolen.
So thinking outside the box meant not just having patrol on the ground, help from the state K9 team, studying home surveillance video from the break-ins, but also working with ALEA Aviation to conduct late night, early morning helicopter surveillance operations to catch burglars.
The helicopters use a flir camera system which can pick up heat sources in the dark.
“They fly completely dark and the flir will pick up hot tires, engines. It’ll give us an idea if something is in the area,” said Chief Thompson.
The helicopter also has a wider viewing area and can alert patrols of activity.
“We can be two neighborhoods over and we can see something two neighborhoods away that we’re not able to see with the naked eye,” said Chief Thompson.
Police say the helicopter has been helpful in making arrests in the cases. The following individuals were arrested or warrants have been obtained:
- Oshai Sharief McLean - arrested on 22 charges
- Jarceon LaJames Banks - 22 warrants issued. Banks is currently in the Elmore County Jail on other charges
- Delano Gilcrest - 22 warrants issued. Gilcrest is currently in the Elmore County Jail on other charges
- Daryle Riheem Gardner - arrested on 18 charges
- Traymon Dekori Sankey - 17 warrants issued. Police are searching for Sankey.
- Two 17 year olds were arrested on 11 charges
- One 17 year old has 11 pending charges
Police say the individuals are all from Montgomery and there may be some connection. They are still investigating the most recent break-ins which happened either late Sept. 3 or early Sept. 4.
“If you come across the bridge and you’re up to no good, we’re looking for you,” said Assistant Chief Diane Thomas.
According to Captain Jeff Hassell, the individuals involved are typically carrying weapons at the time of the crime and considered dangerous.
“I can’t say it enough, the public has to be careful when encountering these individuals because they are armed,” said Hassell. “Some owner will walk outside - not knowing what they’re walking into - going into work early and that gentleman you saw with the handgun will take whatever action he needs.”
Police are urging you to contact police if you see anything and also not make yourself an easy target.
“We asked them, ‘Why do you keep coming back to Prattville?’ ‘You’re an easy target and you got good stuff in your car,’” said Chief Thompson.
He’s urging people to remember to always lock your vehicles.
Chief Thompson didn’t have exact numbers on the cost of the helicopter operation but says the department has personnel trained with the state for mutual aid.
Police were looking for Chauncey Benson in connection to a vehicle break-in on April 21. Investigators signed warrants on him for breaking and entering of a vehicle and theft of property. He is also on probation in Montgomery for committing the same type of offenses.
[UPDATE: Benson has since been taken into custody. He is currently being held in the Autauga County Detention Facility for two Prattville warrants. He has holds placed on him from the Troy Police Department, Montgomery Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Fifteen felony warrants are waiting to be served on Benson. ]
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