January 30, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---There have been 17 break-ins since October at the Family Y on Wheeler Road, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage and missing property.
Richmond County investigators trying to solve the rash of car break-ins believe the cases may be connected, and they need your eyes to help stop the stack of complaints from growing.
Car windows have been smashed right in front of the building and, most recently, near the track.
Track walkers like Mary West say the trend is alarming.
"I always felt like it was safe around here," she said. "I've come here for many years, and many times come early in the morning and never had any trouble, so I'm rather surprised to hear there's been break-ins."
In most cases, the victim was a female whose purse was stolen after being hidden inside the car or in the trunk.
"That is kind of rare, because that's actually something we tell people to do...to lock your valuables up in the trunk of your car," said Lt. Tony Walden. "So we've told people to do that, so I hope it's not something people have picked up on and now going to start using against us."
The Family Y says they have security cameras in place to deter crime, and according to reports some surveillance has already been turned over to investigators.
But the Y's president and CEO, Dan McConnell, says break-ins near the track are particularly difficult, because while they own the track, they do not own its parking lot.
"We try and work hard to educate our members so we can all be of help to one another and keep our eyes open as we come in and out of the facility," he said.
Investigators say in order to keep the pile of reports from growing, it's best to just leave your valuables at home.
"I guess what I'll do is just leave my purse at home and put my ID in my pocket," Mary said.
Two investigators are assigned to this case and are working several leads at this time. As of now they believe they are looking for a man possibly riding in a light-colored van. The sheriff's office is asking anyone who sees anything suspicious to call deputies immediately.
Lt. Walden with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says even though these theft reports are filed initially as misdemeanors, the sheriff's office can decide to change the charge to entering an auto, which is a felony.