South Carolina

York County sheriff asks for help in fight against automobile break-ins

More cars are being left unlocked and broken into, prompting the York County Sheriff’s Office to ask residents to “Lock It Or Lose It.”

Sheriff Bruce Bryant kicked off the awareness campaign Thursday, in response to a growing trend: While auto break-ins overall are down in recent years, the percentage of burglaries of unlocked vehicles is up 6 percent since 2011.

“Don’t set yourself up to be a victim,” Bryant said.

The campaign encourages county residents to put stickers on their cars, reminding them to keep valuable out of sight and doors locked. Stickers and fliers are available at each of the district sheriff’s offices or at Moss Justice Center in York.

Of the 1,974 auto break-ins sheriff’s deputies have investigated since 2011, sheriff’s office spokesman Trent Faris said, more than 70 percent involved unlocked cars.

Burglars search for the most vulnerable vehicles in neighborhoods or parking lots, Faris said, particularly if they can see navigation systems, phones, cameras or wallets.

“These people shop,” Bryant said. “They window shop. They go from car to car to car in a neighborhood.”

Keeping electronics and other valuables out of sight can help, he said.

“They’re going to get it,” Bryant said of items visible from the window. “There’s no doubt about it, because there’s such a market for these valuables.”

Just last week, deputies arrested a suspect connected to 31 auto break-ins in and around York, Faris said. But arrests take time and manpower.

Community awareness and more people making it difficult to steal valuables by locking them up will allow more patrol time for deputies, Faris said. Patrols were increased in Lake Wylie following a rash of break-ins there earlier this month, with deputies handing out fliers to remind people to lock their vehicles.