‘More than usual’ amount of car break-ins this summer
By Gary Lloyd
It is a crime of opportunity, and there have been many, many opportunities this summer in Jefferson County.
The amount of vehicle burglaries and other property crimes typically increase in the summer, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Christian.
“However, this year has seen more than usual,” Christian said.
Between July 7 and Aug. 7, there were 98 reported car break-ins throughout Jefferson County. Of that total, 56 were in the Clay, Pinson and Grayson Valley areas, Christian said. That equates to 3.06 break-ins per day countywide, and nearly two per day in the Clay, Pinson and Grayson Valley areas. In a month’s time, 57 percent of reported car break-ins in the state’s largest county occurred in this area.
“Car break-ins are the ultimate crime of opportunity,” Christian said. “There is a diminished chance of confrontation because the thieves can see who is around the car and decide whether or not to attempt the theft.”
Christian said as many as 30 percent of the vehicles in these cases were left unlocked by the owners, making the thefts easier.
“We are aware of three separate groups who have been committing car burglaries in these areas,” Christian said. “These are loosely affiliated groups of teens and young adults who communicate through social media. They will designate an area, saturate it and walk through trying to find unlocked or easily accessible vehicles.”
Last month, the Birmingham Police Department arrested two black male suspects in connection with vehicle break-ins that had been occurring all over the city of Trussville. Justin Hall, 18, of Birmingham was charged with receiving stolen property and had his bond set at $60,000. Mose Leonard, 19, of Birmingham, was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Authorities at the time said the investigation was continuing and that more charges might be filed.
There could be as many as six suspects in the case, authorities said. Authorities also confirmed that one suspect arrested by Birmingham police was in possession of a stolen car from Homewood and three stolen pistols. One of the stolen pistols was from Trussville, authorities said. This summer, at least three handguns were stolen out of vehicles in Trussville.
On Aug. 1, the Vestavia Hills Police Department obtained felony warrants for the arrest of two Pinson men suspected in several vehicle break-ins. Charged with three counts each of unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle were Jacob Rentfrow, 18, and Joseph Tinnin, 20. Both suspects were also charged with receiving stolen property with total bonds set at $40,000 each.
In the early morning on July 31, Vestavia Hills police responded to a vehicle break-in in progress. Officers intercepted a vehicle fleeing the scene, resulting in a pursuit. The suspect vehicle struck a median and wrecked in the area of Pinson Valley Parkway and Cedar Street. A significant amount of suspected stolen property was recovered, and Vestavia Hills investigators confirmed three victims and expect to confirm several more.
Christian said the sheriff’s office’s investigation is ongoing, and he believes the sheriff’s office will be able to link these suspects to many of its cases.
Christian said people who keep their cars outside should keep valuables out of sight.
“Sometimes keeping your car clean will do more than just impress your friends,” he said.
He said a detachable stereo front panel that you can’t remove from your vehicle will make your stereo useless to would-be thieves.
“Criminals want things quick and easy, so a missing face plate may make them move on to the next car,” he said.
Parking your car in a public location and getting a car alarm system are also measures vehicle owners can take to prevent break-ins, Christian said.
Finally, simply locking your car doors and rolling the windows up are measures people should take to protect their vehicles from potential thefts.
“Your car may get hot, but at least it won’t get emptied,” Christian said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.