By Devin Golden/The Columbus Commercial Dispatch (MCT)
COLUMBUS — On the heels of the recent violent crimes in Columbus, local security and alarm system businesses and pawn shops report an increase in calls about personal protection.
Police are still investigating three homicides that occurred during a five-day span in September. Two more incidents involving gunshots occurred since, and residents and businesses report burglaries on a daily basis.
“We have at least one (burglary) every day,” Interim Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen said.
William “Willie” Vaughn, 41, of Columbus, was shot and killed the night of Sept. 22. According to police, the incident happened near the victim’s home.
Tedd Thomas Wood, 35, of Columbus, was found dead on a city street on the night of Sept. 18. Police said a motorist found Wood’s body and Wood was shot multiple times.
The body of 34-year-old Alfonso Lathan Jr. of Columbus was found Sept. 17 at Luxapalila Creek. A fisherman noticed the body near the boat landing at the Luxapalila Creek Recreation Area off Mississippi Highway 69. Lathan appeared to have been shot, with a trail of evidence leading from a nearby bathroom to the river bank.
Gary Dedeaux of Gary’s Pawn and Gun sees a correlation: As violence rises, so does the sale of guns.
And the most telling trend he sees is more and more new customers walking through the door, Dedeaux said.
“We’ve seen a new clientele come in,” Dedeaux said. “When I say that, I mean we are able to tell whether they have been in the store before. I feel a lot of it is people who do want to have a firearm for protection.
“We have seen, probably in the last few weeks, an increase in sales of hand guns for protection.”
Dedeaux has been in the pawn shop business for 33 years, and he sees the highest response from the older generation and minority residents.
“It affects more of the older generation, people in their 50s and 60s and above. The mom that maybe never wanted to own a firearm in the past might feel it’s time to own one now.
“We have seen, more so in the last week, more (minorities) come in. They may say, ‘With the stuff that’s going on out here, I think I might need something at my house.’”
Residents are also turning to advanced technology for protection, hoping their inquiries translate into comfort.
Golden Triangle Security Alliance owner John Beard said there are more people calling and asking about alarm systems.
“I have existing customers who live in the areas close to where the (homicides) have occurred who asked to get someone out to check to see if their system is working 100 percent,” Beard said, noting security systems aren’t the only thing residents are asking about.
“I also have people who have security systems calling me about adding cameras to their existing system.”
According to Charles Weldon, Alarm One operations and sales manager, the calls inquiring about security systems have also increased for his business, and the shootings and homicides are not the only thing frightening residents.
“We’re getting more calls on the burglary side than the shooting side,” Weldon said.
Weldon said most residents are inquiring about security systems, and businesses are asking about installing cameras. Beard believes this is the right approach, as a camera system is best used as an “addition or supplement” to a home security alarm system.
“People call us and say, ‘I’m interested in a camera system for my house. My neighbor got burglarized and my sister got burglarized, and I want cameras.’
“I say, ‘You need a security alarm system because a camera system will be an after-the-fact benefit. You come home from work and you’ve been burglarized, so you go to your camera system. You pick up who came into your house, but all your stuff is still gone.’
“That’s why an alarm system is good to get first.”
McQueen thinks increased security by use of alarm systems or gun ownership is not the solution. The solution is simply being a better neighbor and residents taking initiative.
“All the technology in the world is not going to save you,” McQueen said. “It’s not going to do anything until we become neighbors and ‘I watch out for you and you watch out for me’ and we put a stop to this.”