Break-ins Prompts Tenn. Residents to Patrol Neighborhood

LA VERGNE, Tenn. --

A rash of break-ins in a La Vergne neighborhood has pushed homeowners to take matters into their own hands. They have asked for extra patrols from police and the sheriff's office, but they know police can't be there 24/7, so they've decided to patrol themselves.

Cynthia Smith said she's fed up with the break-ins in her neighborhood.

"You look for people who don't belong in this area, people walking down the road," she said.

That's why she and other homeowners in the Farmingdale subdivision in La Vergne are keeping more than a close eye on their neighborhood. They are now cruising for criminals.

"We're not used to this. I don't know what to do," Smith said. "I've never been in a neighborhood that you have to patrol it to protect yourself."

The homeowners are taking the neighborhood patrol seriously. Not only are they patrolling during the day, but late at night as well.

"You do it so much you say, 'These cars are supposed to be here,'" said Smith.

The Farmingdale Neighborhood Watch Group said there have been 18 break-ins since November; however, La Vergne police said they have a record of about eight. Police have beefed up patrol in both marked and unmarked vehicles. They have also arrested a couple of theft suspects.

"We've been able to arrest people coming out of the house with merchandise, and we applaud these people from calling in," said Police Chief Ted Boyd.

Smith said she hopes the rest of the burglars are caught before someone gets hurt.

"But they are going to walk in on the wrong person, and they are going to get killed. That's what going to happen," said Smith.

Michael Gifford said he's afraid for his wife and kids, and he knows officers can't do it alone.

"Cops are doing what they can, but they can't be everywhere at once," he said.

La Vergne police said they are spread thin. The department has the same number of officers it had 12 years ago; the chief is asking for more in this year's budget.

"We've grown almost double from what we had in 1999, which was around 17,000 people," said Boyd. "Now the census says we are around 32,000, almost 33,000 people, and we still have those 45 officers."

Police aren't releasing the names of the burglary suspects they have arrested because they said more arrests could be made.

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