Vehicle break-in spree shows need to lock up

Sep 13, 2013

A recent crime spree that extended from Maggie Valley to Canton underscores the need to take the simple precaution of locking vehicle doors.

In late August, a group of Jackson County teens saw a crime of opportunity as they traveled across the county searching for unlocked cars, trucks or SUVs. The open vehicles made an easy target, and the teens didn’t miss a chance to help themselves to the items many of us customarily keep in our vehicles — money, CDs, GPS units, sunglasses, MPC players, cameras, medicines, wallets and purses.

Locked cars were avoided as the teens went for the easiest targets in public parking areas. Since the owners of 25 vehicles reported missing items in a 24-hour period, apparently the young thieves had few problems finding a way to easily and quickly nab the property of others for their own use or resale.

It is possible there were other thefts that went unreported, so the looting could have been even more widespread.

Thanks to a parallel investigation of vehicle thefts in Bryson City, along with surveillance footage showing a similar vehicle in both crime sprees, the perpetrators were caught red-handed in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with a stolen firearm.

A number of things done well in this case suggests justice will be served in this case.

The availability of video footage was a huge help in the case, as were the reports where owners could provide specific enough information for law enforcement to tie the thieves to the Haywood crimes.

What would be better, however, would be removing the easy targets for future criminals looking for a quick buck. The best way to do that is to ensure vehicles are locked, especially in public areas.  It is also suggested that any valuables inside a vehicle be kept out of sight.

Law enforcement officers report that hard economic times lead to a spike in vehicle break-ins — crimes often related to drug abuse. Locking a vehicle needs to become second nature, just as is fastening a seat belt.

Taking a few moments to lock up as you step out of your vehicle could save a lot of trouble down the road.

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