Two recent cases from the files of the Peachtree City Police Department shed some light on current trends in crime as well as the work of a local four-legged crime fighter.
The first incident was just over a week ago and unfolded as K9 Midas and the officer who handles the animal – referred to jokingly by police spokesman Chris Hyatt as the dog’s “chauffeur” and quite seriously as “one of the best cops we’ve got” — were conducting traffic enforcement and stopped a Dodge Charger that Hyatt said had “some of the darkest window tint out there.”
Once they made contact with the occupants of the car, they detected drug odors and got an admission that drugs were in the car. But the subsequent search revealed a great deal more, including some fake IDs, four brand-new iPhone 14 Pro Max models, and receipts from a local Verizon store for the merchandise. The receipts included names from a fake ID that had a photo of a passenger in the car.
“It’s a common crime we come across where we get some out-of-state licenses with other people’s stolen identities and they will do pre-orders for pickup,” said Hyatt. “By the time the people get billed and everything else, they are long gone.”
Hyatt described a very organized effort where suspects typically come into a store with stolen identifications and matching credit cards. They pick up a batch of phones with money that isn’t theirs and move on from there, which in this case led to forgery and other charges.
A Feb. 9 incident began in the parking lot at The Avenue shopping center, where a citizen spotted a black male sprinting out of the Bath and Body Works store with armloads of totes that the observer assumed to be stolen merchandise. That assumption was correct, Hyatt said.
The suspect fled in a black Chevrolet Camaro, but the witness was able to get information from the license plate. Midas and his partner were once again in the area monitoring traffic near the intersection of Hwy. 54 and Hwy. 74. They were able to initiate a traffic stop with the help of other officers, which helped keep the situation from escalating, Hyatt said.
“A lot of people don’t understand the crime trends we are dealing with right now, these are organized crime groups that operate all throughout the southeast region of the United States,” he said. “A lot of times they originate in Alabama, sometimes parts of Florida, and they have their venues. Some crews stick to Bath and Body Works, some are American Eagle crews. Victoria’s Secret is a big one. Once they get their niche, they just stick with it.”
One of the biggest problems with this scenario, Hyatt pointed out, is that these kinds of perpetrators often have too much to lose to allow themselves to be caught.
“Nine times out of ten they flee, which means high-speed chases and lots of danger to the motoring public,” said Hyatt. “They’ve committed aggravated assault on store employees who have attempted to prevent them from getting away. Just a real bad criminal element that we’re trying to put a stop to.”
The three occupants of the car, which had $2,000 worth of candles from the store crammed into its trunk, racked up felony shoplifting as well as drug charges.
“We thought it was going to be a whole lot worse,” Hyatt concluded, “and we were able to stop it from getting there.”