Army wives fear rising crime on Fort Bragg
Thefts from homes on Fort Bragg showed a dramatic increase in the last six months of 2008, but military police say crime on post is much lower than in the surrounding community.Posted — Updated
Military police on post responded to about 400 crime calls from April to June last year, and that number jumped to about 600 between July and September before dropping back to about 420 between October and December. The numbers don't include calls for damage to or theft of government property.
Thefts showed the biggest spike, going from 39 last spring to 211 last summer and 149 last fall. The number of reported assaults and domestic calls remained stable during the three quarters of statistics, at about 80 assaults and 40 domestic calls each period.
"I don't feel safe," said Jennifer Brown, whose garage was broken into while she was home alone with her children. "I'm afraid to let (the children) out in my fenced-in back yard right now because I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know who's walking around."
Some of Brown's neighbors, who declined to speak publicly, also have become crime victims. One had a back door kicked in, another moved out after having a bike and portable global-positioning satellite system stolen and a third came home to find a burglar in her garage.
The husbands of some of the neighbors are deployed overseas, she said.
Also, three registered sex offenders also live on post, at least one of whom is a soldier, and Brown said she and her neighbors have been told a gang operates in the area.
“When you move on post, you’re expecting to have a heightened level of security. You’re expecting your family will be a little safer than if you’re living out in the community, but that’s not happening,” Brown said.
Military police acknowledge theft is the biggest crime problem they face, but they said the numbers are down recently and are much lower than those off post.
“The overall crime trend on Fort Bragg is not bad overall. There’s no rampant crime on Fort Bragg whatsoever,” said Col. John Garrity, commander of the 16th Military Police Brigade. "I think it's more nuisance crime than anything else."
By comparison, Fayetteville police handled 13,480 property crimes last year and 1,630 violent crimes.
Military police aren't sure if soldiers are to blame for the crime on Fort Bragg, or whether people from the outside are coming on post. Garrity said.
"It's not a fortress. There are ways to come onto Fort Bragg," he said.
That fact alarms Brown, who said the "gated community" of an Army post doesn't seem to deter criminals.
“There are armed guards at every entrance, but it’s not that hard to get on post,” she said.
MPs have stepped up patrols in some neighborhoods on Fort Bragg, and they're revamping neighborhood watches and issuing fliers to residents when they notice trouble spots, Garrity said. Crimes also are routinely reported in Paraglide, the post newspaper, to make residents more aware of what's happening, he said.
“Society is society. We are a make-up of the society we serve. There are good soldiers and bad soldiers. Some live in the housing communities, and some live off post,” he said. "I think we're doing a pretty good job. I'm concerned residents have the perception that there's a crime problem."