November 17, 2006
Six cars have been stolen in Augusta in just three days.
Most were taken right from people's driveways in the areas between Walton Way and Wrightsboro Road...and the car thieves are still on the loose.
There's a common theme with all the recent reports: no sign of forced entry. That means there's a good chance the thieves simply pried their way in. But the neater the break-in, the harder it is for investigators.
Some auto thieves shatter the glass to get into the steering column, leaving a trail of evidence for investigators to follow. But that's not the case for this victim.
"Just nothing, my car was gone," Mario McMath told News 12. "Nothing but a truck out there."
The truck next to him was untouched. There's no evidence his car had ever been there, and there are no witnesses.
"They tell me they didn't see nothing...nobody seen anything."
As with most of the recent cases, McMath's car was outside one minute, gone the next...with nothing left behind. Lt. Tony Walden says that is one of the investigation's biggest challenges.
"Investigating motor vehicle thefts is a difficult thing because really, the crime scene is the motor vehicle itself," he said. "We don't really have a lot to work with at first."
But his department still finds 97 percent of the roughly 150 vehicles stolen every month in Richmond County. That's 1800 every year; most are General Motors like Mario's.
"They need to find the person before I find the person...because I need my car back!"
Investigators find vehicles faster when they have a vehicle identification number, or VIN, and a license tag. That way they know what to look for, and victims like Mario have a better chance of getting their vehicle back.
Investigators are still looking into who is responsible for all these thefts. Taking a motor vehicle is a felony.
Investigators find most stolen cars, but not all of them are in good condition.
About 10 percent of them end up in chop shops, stripped for parts. And when a car goes to one of those chop shops, it doesn't take long for it to be in pieces: about a half hour.
In fact, in the US, a car is stolen more than once every 30 seconds.
Nationally, the 1989 Toyota Camry is the most popular car to steal. It's the 94 and 95 Honda Accord in Georgia and South Carolina.
To protect your car, install the Club on your steering wheel, or get a car alarm. Chances are those measures will stop the thieves, since they seem to be looking for quick and quiet steals.