HANOVER – Hide it, lock it, or lose it.
That’s the rallying cry the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is using in an effort to curb a rash of larcenies of vehicles.
Often, victims have left their vehicles unlocked – even with the keys in them.
“We cannot stress enough how this is a preventative game,” Lt. James R. Cooper, public information officer for Col. David R. Hines, sheriff.
“We started seeing an increase in larcenies from autos beginning in September up until, well, now. I think the last one we had was Monday night/Tuesday morning (Dec. 7-8), where a handgun was stolen out of an unsecured vehicle.”
Even more alarming, Cooper said, “We’ve had two handguns stolen out of unsecured vehicles since September.”
According to Cooper, the main areas being targeted are subdivisions and apartment complexes in Mechanicsville in the central portion of the county, including the Kings Charter area, Sherwood Crossing Apartments, and High Point Farms Subdivision.
“In two of those cases,” the lieutenant continued, “two of those vehicles with their keys left inside were stolen. One vehicle, in particular, was used to commit two robberies and three separate shootings in one night in another jurisdiction.”
With many of the larcenies taking place when the victims are asleep, it can be hours later before the Sheriff’s Office is notified to respond and take the report.
“A lot of times these calls aren’t received until early in the morning because the crimes occur during the night or early in the morning, and we’ll get these calls after the fact -- after the suspects have already left the area. That means our investigators have to canvass the neighborhood, ring footage (like a doorbell but always recording), speaking to neighbors, getting them to check their ring footage,” Cooper said.
Neighbors have been helpful in sharing footage with the Sheriff’s Office. As a matter of fact, that cooperation has led officers to identify some of the suspects.
The larcenies involving the two vehicles that were stolen, including the one used in the two robberies, were solved when the HCSO was “able to work with our regional counterparts where those crimes occurred. We gleaned footage from them.”
That collaborative effort prompted the identification of four suspects – all juveniles – ranging in age from 15 to 17. Cooper said they were charged with grand larceny, larceny of a vehicle, which also is a felony, and petty larceny.
“Between September and the end of November, we’ve had 26 larceny from autos. Of those 26, we’ve been able to clear 13 – that was all off those four juvenile offenders,” he added.
“We currently have leads in multiple cases right now,” he said. As for any outstanding larceny cases, “We have leads and we hope to have those cleared out very soon as well.”
Cooper praised the work of the General Investigative Division, saying the officers have “been working very hard on these cases and have done an excellent job.”
“Our Investigative Unit has been working with our Intel [intelligence] Unit, which has been able to send out historical data, and they’ll send their information out to our uniform patrol division,” he said.
He referred to “heat maps,” “that give patrol an idea of these areas that are considered high-risk or areas that may be prone to larcenies from autos historically, so it gives our patrol officers an idea where to focus their patrols at throughout the night and these have actually proven beneficial.” “The other night,” Cooper said, “we received a call from a reported larceny of autos in progress in the Garrison Manor Subdivision, new subdivision off Studley Road, right beside Burkwood Country Club, Our officers were in the area within minutes and were able to apprehend all suspects. We were able to apprehend three suspects and they were all juveniles. They’re looking at charges of vehicle tampering – nothing of value in them, but they were gone through.”
Col. Hines, whose philosophy is always about being in partnership with the community, emphasized that these larcenies are preventable. He encourages residents to “Please remove all valuables to include your keys and lock your vehicles.”