Read neighborhood social network posts and you will likely find complaints from residents who have had their cars broken into – in parking lots, at apartment complexes, even in front of their own homes.
“We are seeing an increase in car break-ins, and, as we talk to other agencies, we all think it’s a metro area-wide issue,” Capt. Mike Lindstrom of the Sandy Springs Police Department said.
At a recent Brookhaven City Council meeting, Police Chief Gary Yandura said the department handled more than 100 calls about car break-ins for September, setting a record. Also in September, Atlanta police handled calls of 70 car break-ins in just one week across Buckhead, Virginia Highland, East Atlanta and Downtown.
Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Atlanta police departments have all issued calls for caution via social media to residents, urging them to remove valuable items from their vehicles and to also lock their cars.
“Entering autos continue to be an ongoing issue, not just in our city, but throughout the metro area,” said Dunwoody Sgt. Aaron Belt.
Last month, seven cars parked in the Drexel Apartments on Drexel Way in Dunwoody were broken into in one night. The thieves took items from inside the vehicles and also stole the wheels off a BMW 525i and a GMC Yukon, leaving it sitting on bricks.
Belt said tire and wheel thefts in Dunwoody are a trend, but that they also occur throughout the Atlanta area.
In July, Dunwoody police arrested 10 people, including four juveniles, suspected in a rash of car break-ins at swim and tennis clubs in the city that began in June.
“We continue to try to address the problem with directed patrols and by apprehending people,” Belt said.
Sandy Springs police arrested four juveniles earlier this month suspected of 14 car break-ins.
Lindstrom said the frequency and number of car break-ins has ratcheted up significantly from just last year
“In the past, we would see cars hit at a particular time with a multiple number of cars hit in one night,” he said. “Now we’re seeing a frequency in the amount of those incidents — we’re seeing them every week. They are more frequent resulting in a larger number of victims,” he said.
Before this year, police would likely be dealing with one or two suspects driving up in one vehicle to a place where many cars are parked, such as a parking garage, and striking as many cars as possible. Now, said Lindstrom, witnesses report seeing several men jump out of one vehicle and hit multiple cars in a matter of minutes.
“We’ve not seen anything to this multitude before,” he said. “They empty out into a small area and take whatever is left in the car. Sometimes they break windows, sometimes the cars are unlocked.”
Police offer several tips to motorists to help them avoid becoming victims, including the “Lock, Take, Hide” recommendation:
1. Don’t leave valuables in your car. And, if hiding something in your car, Lindstrom said it’s best not hide it when getting out of your car. “Do that when getting in,” he said. Don’t use a blanket or anything that looks out-of-the ordinary when covering up something, he added. “Take precaution when hiding items,” he said.
Belt said thieves look for anything in cars. “Even if it is a dirty gym bag. It may have a laptop in it,” he said. “Remove all items and lock the car and pay attention,” he said. “The one constant we see in car break-ins is valuables left in plain view.”
2. Park in well-lit area although “this is not fail-safe,” Lindstrom said.
3. Be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for suspicious activity so, if necessary, you can be a good witness in case your car is broken into or another person’s car is broken into.
4. Lock your cars and don’t leave your keys in the car. This seems as obvious a recommendation as removing valuable items, but sometimes people need to be reminded, Lindstrom said. In recent years, people with fobs rather than car keys have been leaving the fobs in their vehicles, and thieves have taken advantage. “Safeguard your property and you won’t become a victim,” Lindstrom said.