It remains a longtime problem for all communities, especially during the holidays.
Usually for local police departments, they’ll have a situation like this occur: a series of complaints will be made in a subdivision or on a street where People go to bed one night having left valuable possessions in their cars, and wake up the next morning reporting to officers that everything is gone.
Wallets full of identifying information and credit cards and cash, expensive electronics and in several instances, handguns have all been taken in past the from cars.
“One time we even had a lady report a $1,500 purse stolen from her car,” said Rockmart Police Chief Keith Sorrells.
One reason why this keeps happening according to Sorrells and other local chiefs is simple. People aren’t locking their cars.
“People need to realize that we don’t live in Mayberry,” Sorrells said. “If they want to keep their belongings safe, they need to not keep them in the car, and they need to keep their cards locked up.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Between 2015 and now, there have been 484 break-ins combined reported to the Cedartown and Polk County Police Departments. Rockmart numbers weren’t immediately available at press time. But of all those entering automobile cases reported since 2015, many of those come from people not locking their cars, and thieves being able to enter without any work on their part.
According to Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome, the figures go up and down year to year as groups target specific areas, checking doors of cars to see if they are unlocked, then rummaging through vehicle interiors in the middle of the night in hopes of finding valuables of all kinds. For instance, In Polk County there were 121 entering auto complaints in 2015, but over the past two years those numbers have decreased to just 63 in 2017, and 57 so far for this year.
In Cedartown, those numbers were 114 in 2015, just 42 in 2016, and as of press time 87 in 2017.
“Often times these crimes come in spurts,” Newsome said. “We will have a period where we have none and then over one night we will have many on one street. If you envision the way this crime generally occurs, it is obvious why they come in spurts. The numbers do no stay consistent like other crimes might be expected to year to year.”
Though specific Rockmart numbers weren’t available, Sorrells said there have been dozens of cases in his department over the last years, and areas targeted by thieves have shifted in the city limits as well.
The departments do work to stop the problem. Newsome reported aggressive enforcement by his officers to obtain arrests in Cedartown in recent weeks, according to his most recent report to the City Commission last week when the issue came up.
“My night shift patrol made some aggressive enforcement in that area trying to address that, and we recently because of that aggressive enforcement and because of a prompt call by a citizen to 911, we were able to make 2 arrests there last weekend. We didn’t necessarily tie them to any of those entering of autos, because they didn’t necessarily have any of those things on them,” Newsome said.
“But four burglaries were solved with that one arrest due to the things we were able to tie into it,” he added.
Rockmart and Polk County police are working to fight the issue as well.
But their work to patrol and keep an eye out is all for nothing without the citizens helping.
Law enforcement wants local residents to first and foremost keep track of the serial numbers of all items they deem valuable and important, so if they are stolen they can be tracked if sold at pawn shops.
“Sometimes those numbers can be the most important piece of information we can gain about who is doing this,” Sorrells said.
Most important though, the biggest thing that people can do to help prevent the is don’t keep valuables in plain sight or not in the car at all, and to lock their car doors at all times.
“It is a thing that happens, and it hurts my heart that people break into folks cars, but most of those, the super majority of those, are unlocked cars,” Newsome said. “That’s not defending the criminal, but that’s to say that certain targeted measures would help us.”