Car Thief

Lock your car doors.

Sure that sounds obvious, but the Horry County Police Department typically sees a spike in car break-ins over the summer.

“We notice that this trend seems to go up when school is out,” said HCPD Capt. Jason Freer, adding that the suspects arrested are often teens. Earlier this month, police apprehended four individuals who were charged in breaking and entering vehicle cases in the Arrowhead community. Three of them were juveniles.

This summer has been worse than usual. From May to around mid-July, the number of reported automobile break-ins is up more than 60% compared to that same period last year and about 5% higher compared to that stretch in 2017.

Freer and Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said some of the increase could be attributed to the police department’s “see something, say something” campaign or the frequent social media posts about suspicious activity in neighborhoods, prompting community members to speak up.

Tourists are also in town, increasing calls for service in general.

Police said the break-ins typically occur at night, especially between midnight and 4:30 a.m.

Although vehicle burglaries happen all over the county, county police have seen a cluster this year in the south precinct, including the TPC Boulevard and Big Block Road areas. The north precinct has also seen its share of car break-ins, with Freer mentioning many in The Farm and Berkshire Forest communities of Carolina Forest.

Many times, the incidents will happen in dense housing developments where there are several vehicles parked close to homes.

Thieves are able to enter a neighborhood, check to see if a car is unlocked and, if so, quickly scour the vehicle for valuables.

“They're in and out of a vehicle within 30 seconds,” Freer said.

Those who commit those crimes will take anything of value, including money and electronics. One woman recently reported having her vehicle owner’s manual stolen.

Sometimes those who have their cars broken choose not to inform the police, but Freer stressed the importance of calling authorities. Reporting the crime can help police spot trends and nab suspects.

Along with making sure not to leave any valuables in one’s vehicle, police say leaving outside lights turned on is a good idea.

“Criminals like to work in the dark,” Freer said.

Police also encourage downloading the free app Neighbors by Ring, which lets users report crimes and receive real-time alerts from residents who live near them.

If someone witnesses a car break-in, taking a photo or video or simply noting a perpetrator’s description can go a long way toward catching the crook.

Sharing surveillance video is also invaluable, Freer said. If police notice a pattern of break-ins in an area, they can step up their patrols there.

“Call us when you see something suspicious because we are willing to come out and check it,” he said. “That’s how we solve our crimes.”

To report a crime, call 843-248-1520.

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I'm a reporter for the Myrtle Beach Herald. Want something covered? Call me at 843-488-7258.

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