LAURINBURG — A wave of car thefts and break-ins has Laurinburg police urging people to stop making it easy for the criminals.
Police said residents need to protect themselves from “opportunity theft” after seven vehicles were broken into and four cars were stolen in a seven-day period, with the most recent car taken Thursday morning on East Church Street.
The majority of recent thefts have taken place in the south end of Laurinburg, with almost all the thefts within a one and half mile radius of each other.
But Capt. Terry Chavis of the Laurinburg Police Department said the problem is not relegated to one area of town.
“We noticed last month that the break-ins started in the middle of town and worked there way down to the south end of Laurinburg,” Chavis said. “We suspect that they might start making their way back up town.”
Several of the recent crimes have centered near Deerfield Circle. Police said one homeowner caught a young man inside a vehicle parked in the resident’s driveway. The victim was able to chase the man away and write down a license plate, which was turned over to the police.
Denise Riggins, who lives in the neighborhood, said her vehicle was broken into on July 23 and her purse stolen, including a debit card and American Express card.
“I heard something outside but didn’t think anything of it, it must have been the thief closing the card door,” Riggins said.
The thieves used the cards to purchase ammunition, according to Riggins.
“There are pictures of the suspects buying bullets with my bank card and my American Express card at a store in Wagram,” Riggins said. “These people are dangerous.”
Still Riggins feels lucky that only a few items were stolen, unlike her neighbor, June Brooks, who had her 2015 Dodge Journey stolen. The vehicle was valued at $20,000.
“The vehicle had to have been taken between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.,” Brooks said.
The two crimes on Deerfield Circle were committed within an hour of each other which leads the above victims to believe it was the same people who committed both crimes. Chavis said there were other clues.
“The suspects did steal a firearm from another vehicle and we believe they used the stolen bank cards to purchase bullets for that gun,” Chavis said. “I wouldn’t have any doubt they could be armed and dangerous.”
The stolen weapon was a semi- automatic “Glock” handgun valued at $550. It was taken from a vehicle on Laurel Street on July 22 where officers found a glove at the scene of the crime.
Riggins believes that the rash of larcenies and thefts are bigger than just Laurinburg.
“I have had friends in Charlotte and Rock Hill experiencing the same crimes.”
She added that the car thieves are being recruited from out of town because Laurinburg is a too small for cars to disappear.
Just down the road on Angus Drive, two trucks belonging to the same residence were broken into on Thursday night. The victims had a pair of $150 Ray-Ban sunglasses stolen.
Although 95 percent of the recent thefts have had no signs of forced entry, a B&E of a motor vehicle was reported Wednesday where the back window was smashed. The victim, a 19-year-old man, had a $350 rifle stolen from his truck.
Chavis said the best bet to prevent crimes of opportunity is to lock up.
Police are urging residents to:
— Keep car doors locked.
— Not to leave spare keys inside cars.
— Keep vehicles parked in a well lit area.
Along with locking the doors and taking the keys, police said you should also remove other belongings from your vehicle. If you do leave things in your car, including loose change, keep it out of sight.
If you see someone looking into vehicles, trying car doors or generally acting suspicious, call Laurinburg police at 910-276-3211.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-276-2311