By Joe Johnson
One suspect was arrested this week and warrants for another were expected in custody and more arrests are expected in a rash of vehicles that were entered and had property that included abut 10 guns stolen from them last month in Athens.
According to Athens-Clarke County police, approximately 140 vehicles, nearly all of which were left unlocked, were reported to have been illegally entered in the county in July, with an unknown number of additional possible cases in this type of crime that is typically underreported. Property Crimes Unit Detective Nathaniel Franco said that the incidents were spread out throughout the county, but there were clusters in the areas surrounding downtown, two large clusters at Columbia Brookside apartments, and small groupings in various other areas.
One of two suspected thieves believed to be responsible for the crimes at Columbia Brookside, a complex located off Hawthorne Avenue, was identified as 26-year-old Carderious Devonte Gresham of Big Oak Circle, who was arrested late Wednesday night on warrants charging him with eight counts on entering an automobile with the intent to commit theft and five counts of criminal attempt to commit that crime.
According to Franco, all of Gresham's charges were related to crimes committed on July 16.
“He parked his car and basically walked around the complex for around two hours checking every vehicle to see if they were unlocked,” the detective said. “He went into a large number of vehicles that I was not able to identify on the video footage and no reports were made in these cases. He was seen making multiple trips to and from his vehicle, loading it down with property that was stolen from vehicles at this complex.”
Gresham was arrested on Wednesday by Athens-Clarke County police Cpl. Daniel Whitney, who was aware that warrants had been issued for Gresham and learned that the suspect might be staying at a residence on Berlin Street, according to a police incident report. When Gresham saw police cars arriving, he quickly went up an apartment building’s stairwell. As the officer followed, Gresham reportedly opened a window in the stairwell as if he was going to escape through it but when he saw that officers were waiting down below, he gave himself up.
According to the report, an officer searched the suspect and located meth wrapped in a dollar bill. In addition to being arrested on the warrants, Gresham was charged with possession of methamphetamine.
Franco said that another suspect had been identified as having entered around 20 unlocked vehicles at Columbia Brookside on July 30, and that more than a dozen entering auto warrants were being prepared in those cases.
He noted that the complex had surveillance footage “of exceptional quality” that helped to identify both suspects.
The detective said that a lot of crimes could be prevented if people would simply lock their vehicles and not leave valuables inside them.
“Individuals committing entering autos are often involved in other criminal activity and there is always the potential for guns stolen from vehicles to be used in other criminal activity,” Franco said. “Therefore, we urge everyone to secure firearms inside their homes. A small, but notable, number of stolen vehicles actually start as entering autos but turn into stolen vehicle cases when keys to these vehicles are located inside the vehicles. We ask that our residents ensure that no keys or spare keys are left inside vehicles to prevent some of these thefts.”