TUPELO • Local law enforcement across the region is asking people to take closer care of their possessions as the number of car burglaries increases.
Over the past few weeks, there have been more than 80 car burglaries reported in Tupelo, Starkville and Oxford combined. In nearly every case, the vehicle has been unlocked and/or valuables were left out in plain sight. And most cases happen at night in residential areas.
“I used to do a social media campaign every night at 9 p.m. reminding people to lock their door and keep their valuables out of sight,” said Starkville police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Lovelady. “If nothing else, just locking your doors will reduce the numbers.”
Since the beginning of September, around two dozen residents have reported car burglaries to the Tupelo Police Department. During the same span in Starkville, there have been more than four dozen automobiles burglarized. Oxford for the most part has avoided the crime wave, with car burglaries only in the single digits.
In Starkville, there were 52 reported car burglaries, dating back to late August. The bulk of the crimes happen during the overnight hours involving unlocked cars. About half the Starkville burglaries happened in single family residential areas. The other half occurred in multi-family or apartment areas.
“It’s usually someone pulling on a door handle,” Lovelady said. “If it is unlocked, they will look inside for something to take. If it is locked, they will move on to the next one.”
Last Monday was an anomaly for Starkville, with seven “smash and grab” crimes reported.
“Those are very unusual for us, happening during the day time and in big parking lots,” Lovelady said. “Those are crimes of opportunity.”
In many cases, something of value, such as a purse or wallet, was left in plain sight. The criminal simply smashes the window and takes the item.
Over the last week, Starkville has arrested five juveniles and charged them with auto burglary. Three were arrested Sept. 11 after 2 a.m. on Garrard Street. The other two were arrested after 3 a.m. Sunday near Chandler Park, following a call from an alert citizen.
“We always tell people, if you see something, say something,” Lovelady said. “The citizens know who is supposed to be in their neighborhood and who isn’t. We can do a better job when we work with the public as a team.”
The Tupelo Police Department has taken 24 reports of car burglaries since the first of the month, according to spokesman Capt. Chuck McDougald. The bulk of them took place in clusters in residential neighborhoods, including the Lee Acres and Audubon subdivisions. The latter had seven reports over the weekend of Sept. 7-8.
Police arrested Vamari Jackson, 19, of 912 Rockefeller Drive, Tupelo, on Sept. 14 and charged him with burglary of an auto. He is being held on a $25,000 bond.
During the first two weeks of September, Oxford only had seven car burglaries reported. While those crimes happened both during the day and at night, in each case, the vehicle was unlocked. There is no apparent reason why Oxford has escaped the trend, unless their citizens are doing a better job of deterring crime.
“We always preach ‘lock out crime,’” said Oxford police Capt. Hildon Sessums. “Remove valuables from plain sight and lock your doors, of both the house and vehicles.”
While there have been more than 80 reported car burglaries, there have likely been more that have not been reported. In some cases, people are embarrassed. In other cases, nothing was stolen.
Either way, officials urge people to report all crime. It helps police spot crime trends and it tells them where they need to patrol more.