A police car parked on College Avenue in Athens, Georgia on Thursday, October 3, 2019. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

Overall crime has dropped by 33% since Athens-Clarke County’s first shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 17, police said in an email Thursday.

The order essentially asked residents to voluntarily stay at home 24/7 to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Yet burglaries have increased by 79% throughout this same period, said John A. Radford Jr., Athens-Clarke County Police Department acting public information officer, in the email. This data came from ACCPD’s crime analysis team.

Commercial burglaries increased by 175% compared to two weeks before, Radford said in the email. Historically, commercial burglaries make up 17% of total burglaries in ACC, but they have comprised 42% of total burglaries since March 17.

Entering autos, when a person enters a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or a felony, increased by 25% since the order was implemented, according to the crime analysis team.

The ACCPD is supplementing patrol shifts with plainclothes detectives during busy hours, Radford said in the email. The department recommends taking typical precautions to keep property safe, such as locking doors, using lights and alarm systems and installing cameras or smart doorbells.

Burglars have targeted restaurants, stores and churches, some of which have changed their operating hours or closed altogether.

Radford said in the email that, based on years of experience in police work, when “there is a decrease in people being out and about, or the chance that criminals can commit crimes and not be seen, they will do that.”

Cali N Tito’s on Cedar Shoals Drive and Cool World Ice Cream Shop on Gaines School Road were burglarized after the order was enacted.

A burglar stole $40 from a tip jar and an unknown amount of money from the three cash registers at Cali N Tito’s on March 20 and caused damage to the front door, according to a police report. At Cool World Ice Cream Shop, a burglar caused about $900 of damage and stole $100 in cash on the night of March 22-23, according to a report.

Other stores have also experienced burglaries, including the Dollar General on Cedar Shoals Drive on March 20 and Mama Sid’s Pizza on South Barnett Shoals Road on March 23, according to police reports. There was damage to doors during both incidents, but nothing was taken.

Several churches were burglarized by a man wearing a Batman mask in Athens and surrounding areas, according to a March 20 ACCPD Facebook post.

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