PHOTO: A sign in the Maryland Farms YMCA in Brentwood warns drivers to park smart. / Photo by Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
Following months of increased car burglaries, a man suspected of breaking into more than a dozen cars in Franklin was arrested in Kentucky.
The Franklin Police Department is accusing Nashville resident Kedarius Smith of breaking into more than 15 cars, stealing two vehicles and committing credit card fraud.
Smith is in custody in Simpson County Kentucky. He is awaiting extradition to Williamson County.
The city has seen a 22 percent increase in burglaries from cars this year compared to last year. In the first six months of 2018 there were 116 reports of vehicles burglaries, compared to 95 during the same period in 2017. One in 10 thefts this year involved a stolen gun.
In an email, Public Information Officer Charlie Warner said that he thinks thieves come from surrounding cities and take advantage of the feeling of safety in Williamson County.
“Unfortunately, that feeling can lead to complacency, which leaves us with a lot of unlocked cars,” he wrote. “Worse than unlocked car doors are all the valuable left inside those unlocked cars—especially guns.”
But this type of crime isn’t brand new. According to data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, car burglaries in Williamson County—along with the total crime rate—peaked around 2010.
The number of burglaries fell sharply in 2011, but the numbers have slowly started to climb back up. This year, Franklin is on pace to surpass the number burglaries from 2010.
Other parts of Williamson County haven’t seen the same increase in car burglaries.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office has counted 41 thefts from cars this year. The agency reported 70 burglaries to the TBI in 2017. The number of thefts from cars in Brentwood this year is similar to the numbers for the last several years.
The Brentwood Police Department has seen an uptick in car burglaries in the last several weeks.
“We know from experience that there are organized groups who target vehicles at parks and fitness centers,” Brentwood Assistant Police Chief Tommy Walsh wrote in an email.
He said there are multiple groups of people who travel around the Southeastern U.S. committing these crimes, as well as local groups or individuals.
For Walsh, these types of crimes are especially frustrating because most could probably be prevented by removing valuables from a car and locking the doors.
In one incident, a car in Brentwood was robbed while it was parked in front of a sign telling drivers to secure their valuables.
Nolensville Police Chief Roddy Parker said that the town had a problem with car burglaries last year. But the department made an arrest in January and the number of thefts has fallen precipitously.
The town reported 12 thefts from cars in January. Since then there have been between zero and two each month.
But Parker said it’s often difficult to catch the people committing these crimes. According to the TBI, of the 457 car burglaries that happened in Williamson County last year only 37 resulted in an arrest.
“It is very difficult to get a lead on one of these types of situations because … a lot of times they are untraceable items like money,” he said, “If it is something that can be traceable they haven’t bothered to write down serial numbers.”
The TBI’s data shows that car burglaries tend to fluctuate, roughly matching trends in the total crime rate.
Whether the number of thefts is waxing or waning, the message from county law enforcement agencies is the same: take valuables out of the car and lock the door.
The Spring Hill Police Department has earned a reputation for using humor to send that message. The agency’s Twitter account uses Justin Bieber, PBS painter Bob Ross and St. Patrick’s Day to remind people to put their things inside each night.
— Spring Hill Police (@SHPDTN) June 9, 2018
It’s a habit that Warner also calls the 9 p.m. routine.
“The Department is working hard to provide extra patrols in neighborhoods, and paying overtime to officers to patrol neighborhoods in unmarked cars during the overnight hours,” he wrote in an email. “It’s imperative that residents take the time, every night, to secure their cars and homes.”