Police chief describes actions taken to ‘attack’ recent vehicle burglaries

Oakland Police Chief Chris Earl discussed actions last week that he has taken to “attack” a recent string of vehicle burglaries in the town.
Earl said that, during the weekend of Aug. 7-9, approximately 40 vehicles were burglarized.
“They were all unlocked,” he noted. “The bad guys got guns, computers and things of that value.”
The chief made the comments last Thursday night during his monthly report at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Because he is “kind of short” on manpower, Earl said he is “changing hours up” and has put officers in undercover cars in the neighborhoods. He noted that many residents have reported cars driving down their streets with no lights.
“That’s the police,” he said. “They’re sitting down there with their lights off. They’re moving around to different locations.”
The chief cited two things residents can do to help his department:
(1) Turn on their porch lights.
(2) Lock the doors on their vehicles.
Because this is Oakland, Earl acknowledged that there are two “schools of thought.” One is that residents do not need to lock their vehicles, and the other is that it costs a lot of money to replace the glass.
“So, if you’re going to leave your car unlocked,” he said, “don’t put all your valuables in it.”
The chief urged residents to report any “suspicious activity,” even if they are not sure whether it is a police car.
And while noting that he was a K-9 officer for approximately 15 years, Earl said residents need to learn to “trust” their animals.
“If your dog’s barking, get up and go see what’s going on,” he said. “He’s trying to tell you something. We’ve got people who told us their dogs barked, but they didn’t do anything about it.”
The chief expressed appreciation to Fayette County for the assistance it provided. He said the Sheriff’s Office sent “four or five” cars to Oakland to “ride midnights” and help his officers.
Citing the importance of video cameras in local businesses, Earl said two service stations got burglarized, and all their lottery tickets were stolen.
“It’s not something unique to this area,” he noted. “They’ve hit Shelby County and Germantown. So, if we could get some good cameras in these businesses, it would help us a lot to solve some cases.”
Because one member of his department is in the military reserve and two are out on medical leave, the chief said he has only “about 13 officers and sometimes 12.” He noted that, for a town the size of Oakland, “3.5 officers” are recommended for every 1,000 residents.
“We’re not even close to that,” he told the board members. “I just want you to keep that in mind.”
Although the department is “short of officers,” Mayor Chris Goodman said it is “keeping the cars and men on the street.” He commended all the full-time and Reserve officers who are “stepping up and filling the gaps.”
“They’re not getting much sleep,” Goodman said. “It’s not always easy flip-flopping shifts.”
In response to a question by Alderman Billy Ray Morris, Earl acknowledged that the shortage is costing his department “a little overtime.”
He said it relies on the Reserve officers if it can get them, and the Senior Patrol actually volunteered to “sit out at nighttime” in a couple of neighborhoods.
“We’ve got the protection out there,” the chief noted, “but we’re at rock bottom.”
In its budget proposal for the current fiscal year, the police department has requested an allocation for a new officer. But Goodman said he cannot replace the three officers who are out, because they are still employed.
While noting that the department contains its overtime to a “very acceptable level,” the mayor said his administration does what is necessary to “keep the officers out there.”
“I’m not going to penny-pinch when it comes to our town’s safety,” he concluded. “But at this point, we can’t do anything from a hiring perspective, because those positions are still filled.”