Undercover operation reveals unattended cars stolen at gas station

News 12 at 11 / Friday, December 6, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- An undercover operation leads to one arrest and several stolen cars.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says they were starting to see a pattern of stolen cars at two Circle K gas stations along Washington Road, and it was time to do something about it.

Today they arrested a suspect, but the Sheriff's Office says they were surprised when they found out how many drivers made their cars too easy to steal.

"We were kind of shocked I guess you might say," said Sgt. Shane McDaniel.

It was something even the Sheriff's Office couldn't believe.

"Drivers, shoppers. Basically they would go to the gas station, gas up, but leave the vehicles unattended or running or unattended with the keys left in the vehicle," he said.

It's a decision that left several people without a ride home. At least three in the past week were victims of stolen cars.

"It was a substantial number of vehicles being stolen from that area. Obviously it was enough to catch the Sheriff's Office's eye," McDaniel said.

An undercover operation led deputies to Markeith Golphin and four of the stolen cars. Investigators say they saw Golphin walking around the two gas stations looking into cars parked at gas pumps.

The police report says three of the four cars they recovered were stolen because the drivers left their cars running, keys in the ignition, and walked away.

"Everyone's in a hurry to get where they want to go, and it's understandable, but take a few extra minutes and secure the vehicle," urged McDaniel.

"A few extra minutes can save you a whole lot of grief," agreed Mike Plemmons.

Plemmons visits the Circle K two or three times a week to "fill up with gas, pick up some lottery tickets."

Even though he's only gone a minute or two, he says he has a routine before he goes inside.

"Get out of the car, lock the vehicle, check the doors on both sides of the vehicle. Sometimes with an automatic lock it doesn't get both sides. I always check it," he said.

The extra check is just a couple seconds delay before Plemmons heads into the store. He says it's worth it.

"I would rather take a little extra time. I want my vehicle to be there when I get out of the store," Plemmons said.

Deputies say the suspect in this case is a homeless 21-year-old from Sylvania, Ga. He was booked into the Richmond County Jail with three counts of Theft by Taking and one Criminal Attempt Theft.

As more people are out shopping the next few weeks, the Sheriff's Office says be careful. Along with those extra shoppers and drivers, there will also be people just looking for easy ways steal.

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