Business owners speak out after 'sledgehammer' burglars indicted

Business owners speak out after 'sledgehammer' burglars indicted
District Attorney Greg Edwards
District Attorney Greg Edwards

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A grand jury has indicted seven Albany men accused of using sledgehammers to break down walls and burglarize businesses.

On August 4th the "sledgehammer burglars" bashed and battered the rear walls of four Albany stores and businesses, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Seven Albany men were arrested and charged one week later. The Grand Jury indicted them Wednesday on 11 counts. Prosecutors said the crimes were well organized and planned, and carried out quickly.

"This in our estimation was an effort to overwhelm law enforcement and overwhelm the responders to the situation," said District Attorney Greg Edwards.

Store owners were upset because this kind of hole-in-the-wall burglaries have happened before.

They wanted the crimes stopped, and the community rallied around them. The store owners said they are happy to see the indictments and praised the District Attorney and police.

"They work very good this time," said Dixie Food Mart Owner Henry Patel. "They caught seven people and are trying to prosecute them."

Store owners said since the arrests, there have been no more hole-in-the-wall break-ins like they have seen.

"It's good for the citizens [and] the property owners," said Patel. "They can save us from the high insurance. So I request them to keep them for long time."

"We want number one to protect our businesses, because they are vital to our livelihood here in the community," said Edwards. "And certainly this organized effort needs to be responded to with an appropriate response."

The seven sledgehammer burglars could receive up to five years in prison on each count if convicted.

In 2013, Georgia legislators reduced the legal penalty for breaking into non-residential buildings from 20 years to five years. Experts say that might have caused an increase of business burglaries. District Attorney Edwards said he wants lawmakers to restore the 20 year possible sentence for burglaries of current operating businesses.

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