Take your keys please… EPD says July trending high rate of auto theft reports

Published 6:00 am Monday, July 29, 2019




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A recent release from Elizabethton Police Department Captain Shane Darling revealed that July has been an especially busy time in regards to the number of auto theft reports that have been filed with his department.

Darling said that even though some of the reports that were filed turned out to be unsubstantiated, that there are still some vehicles that have not been located that were reported stolen.

“During the month of July, we have had 17 reports of stolen vehicles and that does include things that have turned out to be a civil matter or a joy-riding incident,” Captain Darling said.

“A majority of those vehicles have been recovered but out of that 17, eight of those are reports of where people left their car unlocked or left their keys in their car and it was a crime of opportunity for the offender.

“Someone was walking down the street and saw a car that had the keys in it so they have just taken off with them. A lot of times those are recovered somewhere else in town or Johnson City but in a few cases those vehicles haven’t been recovered.”

When asked if he could point to a factor(s) that have led to the increase, Darling said that it was hard for him to point to contributing factors that have caused the increase.

“I really can’t speak for the factors. I think that we are seeing a rise in crime overall. As far as saying this is related to something else, I don’t think that I am educated enough in that to speak to that,” Darling commented.

“Drug use, thefts, things like that are going up as well. I am sure there is a tie-in there somewhere, I just can’t speak to that.”

Darling did offer some pointers to citizens on how to make sure that they aren’t one of the unfortunate ones to find their automobile has been stolen through a criminal act.

“A few simple things on the prevention side is don’t leave your keys in your car, make sure that your vehicle is locked, make sure that valuables are not left in the vehicle or that they are out of sight,” suggested Darling.

“One thing that we have seen through this is that none of the reports of this year is what people normally think of auto theft. Somebody sees a nice car, they bust the windows out, and they get in the car and hotwire it or whatever.

“That’s not the case,” Darling continued. “It’s all been a crime of opportunity. It’s walking by and seeing a car unlocked and taking off with it.

“So, lock it, take the keys out, and don’t leave valuables on the prevention side.”

Captain Darling also gave a valuable tip when going on shopping outings.

“If you are able to, we have only had one or two that have actually been witnessed, but if you are able to and this goes along with the preventive side is if you are in a public place try to park somewhere that’s in the open,” stated Darling.

“If you are at a shopping center and they have cameras, try to park in the main part where those video cameras are because a lot of times that is how we solve these is by video from various businesses or residents or whatever the case may be.”

There has not been a particular pattern to the type of automobiles taken as according to Darling, there have been new cars, old cars, trucks, and vans taken during the recent crime spree.

The only real pattern has been that the vehicles have been unlocked and the keys left in the ignition.

In the event an auto theft happens to you, Darling added the importance of notifying the police just as soon as the vehicle is taken.

“If you are a victim, of course, we need to know as soon as possible. On some occasions, there’s been a delay with somebody maybe trying to chase after whoever stole it. I think a lot of times we have this where it’s not going to happen to me — you know that type of mentality,” Darling stated.

Asked if the recent auto thefts were possibly a part of an organized auto theft ring, Darling said that the evidence does not point toward any type of that activity as suspects have been identified on some of the thefts and sometimes multiple thefts are possibly the responsibility of one suspect.

A real eye-opener is found in looking at the numbers from 2018 to 2019 in regards to the number of auto theft reports.

“From January 1 until this same time in July in 2018, we had 47 reports of stolen vehicles,” Darling added. “From January 1 of 2019 until this date, the number is 75.

“Now, again, that includes things that have been related to being civil matters or repossession that initially gets reported as a stolen vehicle. There are other things included in that but if you look at the numbers, there is a pretty significant increase.

“It is over a 50 percent increase in auto theft reports.”

Darling added that Tip411 is a great way to stay abreast of what is going on in the community as well as a new phone app that can be downloaded on cell phones.

“The Elizabethton Police Department app is good for the community to have,” Darling said. “That is a fast way for us to get information out.

“If we need to divert traffic for an emergency, we would love for everyone to know by using that app. We can be followed on Facebook and Twitter because when something is posted, it goes to those immediately as well.

Darling said that the best thing that the community can do is to be observant and not be afraid to contact the police if something doesn’t appear the way it should.

“Information sharing is important as far as the community goes,” Darling said. “If you see something that is suspicious, we urge you to call.

“We would much rather you call and we go out to check and it be nothing than to see something and not say anything. So, speak up.”