HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Home burglary trends are mixed in 2011, but police need your help to prevent the numbers from going up.
"I felt sick because a gun got stolen out of my trunk and now these people burglarizing the houses are armed maybe," said Craig Covino, a home burglary victim in Carolina Forest.
"I didn't sleep for the first several nights at all," said Pam Datlof, another victim in the Covington Lake community of Carolina Forest. "Quite frankly we could have been killed. If the person who did this had pure malice on their mind, we would be dead right now," agrees Mike Datlof.
Pam and Mike Datlof are two of those victims in the Carolina Forest community of Covington Lake. Both were asleep when someone broke into their home and took Pam's purse from the kitchen counter, not far from the bed where they were sleeping. Crimes like that prompted a neighborhood watch.
The home break-ins continue up the Grand Strand and, after a string of burglaries in the Waterfall community in Little River, some neighbors are installing alarms and glass breaking sensors.
A home invasion earlier this month near Conway left a shooting victim alive to tell about it. Not all home invasion victims are as fortunate, as there are deadly cases also reported. A shooting in the Willow Run apartments from back in 2009 still haunts many.
"We've received many calls about break-ins or home invasions in this neighborhood," said Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes to WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely, during a ride-along interview through town.
"What would you say could be a reason this area could be one of the areas hit," asked Maely.
"I'd say a lot of the times home invasions that happen, not all of them, but a great majority of them, have some sort of involvement of drugs or money or weapons, that the suspects believe are in the house," Knipes explains.
Horry County Police say there were approximately 2,050 burglaries last year, up roughly 100 from 2010.
Where do Myrtle Beach Police say the most burglaries are happening?
"In the hotel district," confirms Knipes. "Anywhere from 30th North, down to 29th South."
There were 610 burglaries last year, actually down almost 200 from the year prior, which is a common up and down fluctuation.
Most of last year's 601 crimes happened between Ocean and King's Boulevard on the south side of town.
"That's because there's more of a hotel and business mix, and more of a transient population than where your year-round residents live," claims Knipes.
Most victims, he says, tourists or your family members visiting from out of town who don't get the message, often think balconies are safe.
"I can tell you countless times where people wake up, and there's somebody in your room, they're on the 2nd, 3rd floor [or even] 4th, 5th floor. Even in hotels we've had Spiderman type of criminals that climb the outside of the building and enter through balcony window or balcony door," says Knipes.
Knipes adds homes just off the strip are also popular spots for burglaries too.
"In a residential area, you're more than likely to get hit during the day, when people think you're not there," he said.
Maely asks Captain Knipes if any of these home burglaries are preventable from law enforcement's point of view.
"It's frustrating but it's part of the job; it's been this way for the 25 years I've been here, it prevents a team of 15 investigators from solving the more violent crimes, or focusing their efforts on the violent crime," Knipes admits.
Heading to the south end of the Grand Strand, police in Surfside Beach say they have put a stop to a string of burglaries through several arrests made in January.
"We just broke up a pretty good burglary ring and it's probably good for 50 to 75 break-ins in the area," said Mike Frederick, Surfside Beach Police Chief. He went on to say that burglaries are down about one-third in his town over the past year, with the arrest of four suspects last month, but he's still easily able to find problems you too should watch out for.
"The over grown shrubbery [in front of some houses] is precluding passersby from having a good view of the door, that pretty much gives burglars and unlimited amount of time and a free shot to work on your front door, which is what they're looking for," said Frederick, showing us a random house in Surfside Beach with high shrubbery. "Visibility is key too; lighting is your friend. You want automatic lighting but in most areas, just leave the lights on. Just assume someone's probably there."
Frederick said an alarm system is likely the most important. "As soon as that door opens, no burglar will stay after that alarm goes off, they pick the screw driver and crowbar up and they split."
And Frederick says don't waste money on an expensive door lock. "There's not a lot you can do in a residential home to your door; if somebody wants to get in your home, they're gonna get in your home."
Investigators say most robbery suspects admit to a drug addiction, and their motive is cash to feed the habit. Detectives say you should let them know if you're going to be away from your home on vacation.
In addition, police say neighborhood watch programs will help them, but they also need you to report crime so they can follow up on it. Meanwhile, you can use this link to track the crime in your neighborhood.