Car break-ins in Rock Hill surged the last five months of 2007.
From August to December, car break-ins went up 55 percent compared to the same months last year, according to police reports. The greatest increase was in October, when car break-ins went from 53 in 2006 to 104 in 2007.
But for the year, car break-ins went down 1.2 percent -- from 815 in 2006 to 805. To combat the problem, Rock Hill police emphasize patrolling shopping centers and apartment complexes, Lt. Jerry Waldrop said.
The Herald analyzed about 100 reports from October for patterns and trends among the incidents. The research showed that not even the police were exempt. Four police cars and some buses were broken into.
Among the break-ins, most stolen items ranged from stereos to sporting equipment, but victims also reported missing a pool cue, a guitar and even one car's front grill.
Recovering the items stolen from a car doesn't happen often, police said. The chances of arresting someone for the crime also are slim.
"We have a low success rate. It's a hard type of crime to clear," Waldrop said. "There's little or no physical evidence at the scene and hard to trace items stolen."
York County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jerry Hoffman said there's no hot item people want to steal.
"It's most important not to leave something to steal in the vehicle," he said. "If I leave a $10 bill on the seat, they'll take that. If I leave a $10 bill and laptop -- they'll take both. You are more susceptible to becoming a victim if a laptop, pocketbook, cash, iPod or other desirable items are in view in the vehicle."
Less than a third of the vehicles broken into in October in Rock Hill had locked car doors at the time of the incident, according to police reports.
Locking a car, however, doesn't protect a vehicle from being broken into, Hoffman said. Broken windows and locks were repeatedly seen on the analyzed reports.
The window of a Rock Hill police car parked at the Rock Hill Public Works Department on Columbia Avenue was broken for a laptop and digital camera, according to reports. Other police cars had antennas, license plates and a light bar stolen off them one October night.
Some of those items were recovered, but that's not the case with all vehicle break-ins.
Although a small number of the car break-in reports studied were linked to suspects and arrests, the majority were marked closed because of a lack of information, according to the reports. How successful a department is recovering stolen items and prosecuting the offenders varies by case, Hoffman said.
The incidents were reported all over the city, but the most frequent location was Cherry Road, with some break-ins occurring at restaurants, hotels and stores. Anderson Road came in second. About half the incidents reported there happened the same day and involved broken windows. Riverview Road, Cavendale Drive, East Black Street, Ebenezer Road and South Herlong Street also saw multiple incidents.
Outside of the city, Fort Mill is a popular spot for car break-ins, Hoffman said. Carowinds Boulevard has a lot of break-ins because of the nature of the area with hotels and a high volume of cars, he said.
In October, there were 47 car break-ins reported to the sheriff's office. Almost half were in northern Fort Mill, eight in the Clover area, five around York and the rest were near the city and around the county, Hoffman said.
Car break-ins by the numbers