Patrols increased in Lake Wylie following a rash of break-ins June 16. Law enforcement hopes community awareness is also on the rise.
On Thursday morning, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant asked residents in Lake Wylie and across the county to help his office curb an increase in auto break-ins.
“Don’t set yourself up to be a victim,” he said.
On June 16, the Sheriff’s Office reported 21 cars were broken into at Lake Wylie Woods and the Hamilton’s Bay apartments. Most had windows knocked out. Three were unlocked when the crimes occurred.
Julia Jordan, president of the homeowners association at Lake Wylie Woods, said the incidents there happened between 3 and 5:30 a.m. June 16.
“Lake Wylie really has never had a lot of crime,” Jordan said. “It seems like you hear about it way too much now.”
Bryant’s office began a public awareness campaign Thursday, largely in response to the Lake Wylie incidents, but also due to a growing trend.
Overall, car break-ins are down in recent years. But the percentage of them requiring no forced entry is up 6 percent since 2011.
“Since 2011, we’ve responded to and investigated 1,974 car break-ins,” said Trent Faris, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, “and 1,429 had no forced entry, meaning basically that the cars were left unlocked.”
The Lake Wylie incidents remain open investigations and were “a little unique” in that most of them were forced entry, Faris said.
Most incidents countywide, however, involve suspects searching for the most vulnerable vehicles in neighborhoods or parking lots, particularly if they can see navigation systems, phones, cameras or wallets in the cars.
“These people shop,” Bryant said. “They window shop. They go from car to car to car in a neighborhood.”
Keeping electronics and other valuables out of sight can help, he said.
“They’re going to get it,” Bryant said of items visible from the window. “There’s no doubt about it, because there’s such a market for these valuables.”
Officers usually are able to catch and charge someone with the car break-ins.
Earlier this month, an arrest came for someone charged in 31 cases from the York area, Faris said. But arrests take time and manpower. The Lake Wylie incidents needed deputies to investigate, plus two K-9 officers and two forensic officers to assist.
“We tied up three days on those 21 cars,” Bryant said of the recent incident.
Community awareness and more people making items harder to steal by locking them up would allow more patrol time for officers in their communities, Faris said. Officers handed out fliers reminding people to lock up valuables.
Jordan, a Lake Wylie resident for 10 years, said it seems like crime is increasing, and she’d like to see more officer patrols. Her neighborhood and others around it are seeing more crime even in the midday hours, she said.
“In the past year, we’ve had three of the condos broken into during the day, which was unusual … ,” Jordan said.
The “Lock It Or Lose It” campaign unveiled Thursday includes stickers and fliers for residents to put in cars to remind residents to keep valuables out of sight and car doors locked.
Items are available at each of the regional district offices or at Moss Justice Center in York.
Anyone with information on the Lake Wylie incidents or other crimes in York County should call Crime Stoppers of York County at 1-877-409-4321.