A series of car break-ins hit epidemic levels Monday after thieves hit 38 cars in the Battery Point neighborhood, according to the Beaufort Police Department.
All the cars were unlocked when they were broken into Sunday night or Monday morning, according to police reports. Not all of the cars had items taken from them. The stolen property totaled $4,742.
Before the Battery Point incident, Beaufort had 20 reports of car break-ins in September. Almost all involved unlocked cars.
Beaufort Police Cpl. Hope Able said she thought the break-ins were the most ever reported in so short a time period.
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Battery Point homeowners association president Richard Seymour said he couldn't recall such an incident in the 12 years he's lived in the neighborhood. Seymour said the relative lack of crime in the area might have lulled residents into a sense of security.
"It seems like folks got a little complacent and a little lax," he said. "We were lucky, though. As far as we know, nothing of consequence was stolen from the cars. It was mostly loose change and small items."
Sgt. Robin McIntosh of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said a spike in car break-ins over the past two months has contributed to a rise in the number of break-ins for this year, compared to the number in 2012. McIntosh said the Sheriff's Office received 399 reports countywide of car break-ins this year as of Sept. 10 -- an increase of 30 cases from the same period in 2012.
Able and McIntosh both stressed that residents should lock their cars and keep valuables out of sight or out of the car.
"It's not just about locking the doors, it's about securing property," McIntosh said. "Locking the doors and rolling up the windows are very good deterrents, but those measures alone may not stop the thief who sees something inside that they want. If there's nothing inside a vehicle, then nothing can be stolen."
Both departments urged residents to lock their cars and secure valuables last week after break-ins throughout the county, from Lady's Island to Bluffton.
Seymour said he doesn't worry as much as other residents about locking his cars because he parks them in a garage. About half of the homes in Battery Point have garages.
As a result of the break-ins, the Battery Point homeowners association is putting together a newsletter with tips securing their cars for residents. Seymour said the newsletter will include basic information such as locking car doors and rolling up windows, but will also recommend residents buy motion-sensor lights or cameras to safeguard their cars and homes.
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