By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— A recent series of break-ins and burglaries at churches and businesses in north Jefferson County has spread into the northern parts of Gardendale.
Break-ins with vandalism were reported late last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning at Gardendale Baptist Tabernacle on Decatur Highway. The primary damage was to the church office.
Vandalism and break-ins were also reported at several nearby businesses, including Witt’s Market, EarthWorks and Latta Plumbing at about the same time.
Little was taken in the way of money or other property.
The incidents come on the heels of break-ins and burglaries in the far northern reaches of the county, particularly in the Corner community.
Last week, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Corner School Road was hit by heavy vandalism not long after Sunday night services. Damage was done to exterior windows, desks in the main office and to a video screen in a lobby.
Break-ins, burglaries and vandalism were also reported at the Corner Chevron gas station and convenience store, a car wash adjacent to Dollar General near Corner Middle School, and at The Yellow Jacket Restaurant on Bagley Road. Items stolen in those incidents ranged in value from several hundred dollars into the thousands.
In addition, there are unconfirmed reports of similar incidents in the last two weeks in Mt. Olive. The North Jefferson News continues to investigate those reports.
The incidents prompted Barbara Gray, owner of The Yellow Jacket, to call for a community meeting to discuss ways of stopping the crimes. (That meeting was held Tuesday night after press deadlines.)
The incidents also prompted comments in Monday night’s Gardendale City Council meeting. Pat Smith, who lives on Vann Drive not far from Baptist Tabernacle, complained to the council that police patrols in the area were lacking.
“We had a car late one night that was driving very slowly down our road, and would stop every so often,” Smith told the council. “It was acting strangely, so I called the police. I rarely see police up here late at night.”
Police Chief Mike Walker said that crime rates were staying about the same on a percentage basis, except for theft — and much of that increase could be attributed to increased diligence and theft-prevention activity by Walmart, the city’s largest retailer.