It’s one of the most common crimes in metro Atlanta. Criminals quickly break a car window and help themselves to someone else’s valuables.
And sometimes, vehicle owners make it even easier on thieves by leaving doors unlocked with personal items in plain sight, according to police agencies.
The Atlanta Police Department has seen a 22% increase so far this year in thefts from vehicles, forcing the agency to increase efforts to catch those responsible. Over the weekend, two would-be thieves were arrested, police said Tuesday.
“APD wants the community to know that we are doing everything in our power to catch the thieves breaking into cars and to reduce crime in general,” the agency posted on its Facebook page. “APD reminds people to remove all valuables and other items from cars, especially firearms. Doing so can help reduce your chance of being the victim of a car break-in.”
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During a single night in January, 76 car break-ins were reported at an apartment complex along the Beltline, between the Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park neighborhoods. On Sunday, undercover APD officers were assigned to Williams H. Borders Drive in southeast Atlanta. Shortly after midnight, officers saw a man breaking into one vehicle and scoping out others in the area, according to police.
“The officers noticed the suspect looking into several parked vehicles on Gartrell Street, utilizing a flashlight to peer into cars,” Atlanta police said. “Other patrol units were contacted and converged on the area, blocking off the suspect’s escape options.”
When the suspect, later identified as Markel Wilson, saw the officers, he ran and jumped over a fence. But officers were able to apprehend Wilson, who had a black flashlight and lanyard around his neck along with a tool for breaking windows, police said.
Wilson, 23, was arrested and charged with obstructing officers, loitering or prowling, possession of tools to commit a crime, criminal damage to property second degree, entering automobiles, damage to property and defrauding another. He was being held Tuesday afternoon at the Fulton County jail on $7,000 bond, booking records showed.
In a separate incident early Sunday, an alert resident let officers know she saw a man pulling on door handles of cars parked on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, according to police.
An officer located Arnold Revels about a quarter-mile from where the witness spotted him, police said. The witness positively identified the 47-year-old Revels, who was arrested and charged with entering auto and criminal attempt and loitering. He was being held without bond Tuesday at the Fulton jail.
“If you see something suspicious, call or text 911,” Atlanta police said. “Residents in this neighborhood can rest easier tonight knowing there are two fewer thieves on the streets and more APD officers on patrol keeping them safe.”
Mark Tiller was waiting for an early-morning Uber to the airport recently when he noticed his own car looked amiss. Upon inspection and review of his security system’s camera footage, he figured out that his vehicle had become a target.
“It is frustrating,” he said. “You feel like, man, that was pretty bold.”
In addition to the security camera, his Atlanta property is well-illuminated with floodlights. None of that deterred two people from rifling through his car at just after 4 a.m.
“I was just surprised to see how brazen they were,” Tiller said.
He’s in the habit of never keeping anything of value in his car, so the thieves’ haul was pretty slender. They made off with some REM CDs and whatever was in the change tray. Still, to have his car set upon despite his robust security measures was unsettling.
“It’s tragic and sad. What makes someone take to the streets?” Tiller said, wondering about those responsible. “The leadership of our city, I don’t know what they’re paying attention to. It’s not this. It doesn’t seem like anyone’s listening.”
In addition to Atlanta police, other metro agencies are also encouraging residents to do their part to help prevent becoming crime victims.
“Park your car in a well-lit area and make sure you are mindful of the area where you park,” Gwinnett County police Cpl. Collin Flynn said. “These types of criminals often target large group events like sporting events and concerts.”
In Cherokee County, the Sheriff’s Office is hopeful a new program that allows people to register their security cameras will help catch criminals in the act. So far, 385 people have registered cameras, according to Capt. Jay Baker. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have access to anything on the cameras, only the location, he said.
“They simply register their location and if we have any crimes in a particular area, we can check to see if there are any registered cameras nearby,” Baker said. “We then can call them and ask if their camera captured the suspects on video.”
— Staff writer Jennifer Brett contributed to this article.
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