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Fire stations to get security upgrades
Forsyth County

After reported break-ins from earlier this year, the Forsyth County Fire Department is getting security improvements for its stations.

Forsyth County Commissioners voted 5-0 this week to award up to $300,000 for security improvements at 13 county fire stations, though the actual costs will be about half of that. The funds will come from the fire department’s budget.

Procurement Director Donna Kukarola told commissioners the actual costs were “definitely under-neath that budget amount” and would be $160,867.14.

Commissioners approved stand-alone cameras costing about $77,000, exterior lighting upgrades for 11 stations for about $39,000, access cards at 11 stations for $33,000 and fencing at stations 14 and 15 for $11,000.

Kukarola told commissioners the reason some of the improvements were only for 11 of the stations was because new fire Stations 6 and 11 — which opened in March and April, respectively — were built with those already included.

“When we built the newer ones, the security items were included in the build-out,” she said.

Commissioners decided to move ahead with the security improvements following several break-ins at several fire stations in Forsyth County and surrounding areas.

Five Forsyth County stations reported break-ins in early 2017.

In January, five vehicles were broken into and three guns were stolen at Forsyth County Fire Station 10 at 3860 Old Atlanta Road, near Lambert High School.

Later that month, four current and one former station in Gwinnett County were broken into and items stolen. A Gwinnett police official said at the time there was no confirmation that the incidents were related but it was a possibility.

In March, Station 3, which is on Wallace Tatum Road, Station 4, which is on Evens Road at Canton High-way (Hwy. 20), and Station 7, which is on Highway 9, were targeted, along with two Alpharetta and a Dawsonville stations. Six guns were taken from the Forsyth County stations. 

The night after those break-ins, 11 vehicles at Station 1 on Castleberry Industrial Drive were entered.

At that time, Division Chief Jason Shivers said firefighters at the station were aware of the other break-ins and that 10 of the cars were left unlocked to prevent them from being smashed in. Firefighters also began leaving valuable items at home.

While all of the cars were rummaged through, the only vehicle with its windows broken was locked, and a checkbook and cup full of change were stolen from the vehicles. No firearms were taken.

Most of the incidents happened overnight. 

As guns were a commonly stolen item, commissioners asked Fire Chief Danny Bowman if it might be able to bring them inside stations until the measures could be put in place, Bowman said he had spo-ken with the sheriff and “can’t make that recommendation.” 

Two arrests have been made in the break-ins.

Lawrenceville residents Elisha Ross, 25, and Ayana Forest, 22, were charged with entering auto, viola-tion of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and burglary — all felonies — among other charges, after the Cobb County Police Department, the Smyrna Police Department and the FBI determined “more than 161 vehicles were entered by the two suspects at more than 44 loca-tions” since January.

The pair had allegedly stolen more than 40 firearms since the beginning of the year, including the three at Station 10.