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KCSO advises how to prevent car break-ins

Posted: September 21, 2015 10:33 a.m.
Updated: September 21, 2015 1:00 a.m.
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Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews

With a recent rash of vehicle break-ins in the West Wateree area of Kershaw County, Sheriff Jim Matthews and lead investigator Capt. Steve Knafelc are cautioning residents to guard their valuables and not make their vehicles easy targets.

Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) reports in recent weeks have said the crimes generally have happened in the early morning hours between 1 and 5 a.m., with several thefts occurring along a particular street or two as suspects work their way through the neighborhoods under the cover of darkness.

“It’s some young, male subjects that go out at night time and they’ve been hitting subdivisions because the homes are more concentrated. If a car is locked, they’ll break the window and get in and steal whatever’s of value. People leave all kinds of valuable things in their cars -- there’s GPS units, laptop computers, guns, money, you name it,” Matthews said. “If a car is not locked, they’ll try it and get in, so I’m telling people to not lock their cars and don’t leave anything in them. That way they don’t have to pay for a broken window. But it’s a natural instinct to lock your car, but if somebody wants to break in, they’re going to bust your window.”

Matthews said he realizes it’s inconvenient to remove valuables from your vehicle and take them into your residence every day, but it’s the most effective way to deter theft and send the suspects looking for earier prey..

“People are just careless and quick. Their lives are busy and they get home, close the car, lock it, have dinner, play with the kids, help with homework and they leave important stuff in their vehicle and it’s a crime of opportunity, basically,” Matthews said. “It’s the option that people have. They can lock it and feel secure, but it’s not really secure because it’s a piece of glass. The number one thing is to not leave anything in the cars. If these guys go around in a neighborhood and go in the cars and they’re not finding anything, then there’s not a problem.”

Knafelc said the investigation into the thefts is open and ongoing, but said his team has some suspects in mind who have a criminal history.

“We’ve worked tirelessly over the past month now. They’ve hit four neighborhoods: Wedgewood, Hunters Crossing, Pepper Ridge and Rocky Branch. We’ve got them on video, but they’re covered up head to toe with gloves, masks and glasses. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly who it is,” Knafelc said. “It’s more than one, it’s two or three. People are leaving their cars unlocked, leaving their garages open and it’s an opportunity for them to hit very easily.”

Knafelc said the thieves move from car to car on foot, hiding in the shadows and in bushes along the way.

Matthews said his deputies have been allowed to work overtime in the affected areas, but can’t be everywhere at all times.

“We don’t have enough deputies to patrol. They’re answering calls, which is why I’m always asking for more people, because we can’t be proactive with the manpower we now have. We did get approval for some overtime,” Matthews said. 

He and Knafelc said other crimes of opportunity have been on the rise throughout the county, with lawnmowers, ATVs, mopeds, utility trailers and other unsecured, valuable items being stolen from open sheds, barns and from underneath carports. Again, they cautioned residents to keep such items hidden and secured.

“Keep them locked up and out of sight, and I have always advocated (for) people writing down the serial numbers on things. When a deputy goes out and makes a report, if it’s got a serial number on it, we need that serial number. If we find that item at a guy’s house and there’s a bunch of stuff we know is stolen, we can’t prove a single item was stolen unless we have the serial number or some identifying mark,” Matthews said. “People are just too busy to write this stuff down. If you have anything of value, write down the serial numbers and keep them in a separate place. If we find it at some yahoo’s house and run it through the system and it comes back as stolen, we’ve got them.”

Descriptions and serial numbers of stolen goods are entered into the National Crime Information Center, which uses a computer database available to law enforcement all over the United States.

“We sometimes get blamed for not doing our jobs, but the people have set themselves up to be a victim. It’s much easier to not be a victim that it is to be a victim and then solve the crime,” Matthews said. “People just have to be a little more responsible with their goods.”


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