Auto thefts in Richmond County

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News 12 at 11, June 2, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- When it gets hot, so does your least to thieves. When the temperature rises, investigators see a rise in car thefts.

Auto thefts in Richmond County. It's something Tim Duke knows all about.

"Majority of these thieves they're really, really smart. They will test drive a car, they'll go up to a locks smith, they'll get a key cut, they'll come back when we're not here and steal it," Tim Duke said.

Tim owns Duke Automotive Sales & Leasing on Washington Road. His car lot has been hit several times. Last year, they had five cars stolen. Four of them were Honda Accords.

"The people who stole the cars, actually had a key, two or three of them had a key to the vehicle. Came in, unlocked the car. Drove right off the car lot with it," Duke said.

He says they even stole one of their cars right off one of these things in broad daylight. Lt. Tony Walden says the Richmond County Sheriff's Office has been averaging 130 motor vehicle reports a month. They also see two to three incidents a month where cars are stolen from car dealerships.

"We've worked several cases in just the past couple weeks, where people have signed promissory notes to purchase a vehicle, like on a Saturday and they let them leave with the car," Lt. Tony Walden said.

Tim says their dealership took a hundred-thousand dollar loss because of stolen vehicles that were not recovered. And since then they've definitely gone the extra mile. They've put up steel poles every three feet all around the lot. They also put up a security fence. But they didn't stop there. They also installed a video surveillance system.

"We make everybody come into our office, so the camera has a chance to photograph the individual up close," Duke said.

And so far this year, they've only had one vehicle stolen off their car lot. But it happened in January, before they got all new security. A lesson learned the hard way, but one that's now paying off.

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