Police urge public to lock cars, discourage ‘crimes of opportunity’ during Memorial Day weekend

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:54 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Police departments across the Grand Strand have a message for the community and tourists: lock up your cars!

They’re concerned that Memorial Day celebrations will attract those who are looking for ‘crimes of opportunity,’ which could mean someone opening up your car door and stealing your stuff.

Myrtle Beach MCpl. Tom Vest says his department constantly receives reports about valuables being stolen from vehicles.

He said the risk of it happening increases around holiday seasons, as more people flocking to the area creates more opportunities for crimes.

Vest provided statistics to paint a picture of how often these type of car larcenies occur in the city.

In 2018, there were 570 thefts in Myrtle Beach from motor vehicles. In 2019, that figure jumped drastically to 822 car larcenies.

Vest says many of those vehicle doors were unlocked, which created a crime of opportunity for thieves. He also said many of the car break-ins reported don’t involve someone forcing their way inside of the vehicle.

“Very rarely do we have times where glass or windows are broken,” Vest said. “For the most part, they pull on the door handle and if it’s open, they’ll go in and help themselves to your items.”

He says with more people coming to the beaches for Memorial Day fun, the risk for people leaving their doors unlocked increases.

“The more vehicles that are here, the more left unlock, the more larcenies we’re going to see,” Vest said. “If someone is walking through a parking garage, and they’re pulling on door handles and they find some open, or they see items inside they want such as lap tops, computers, that’s an opportunity for them to take it so it really is a crime of opportunity. It’s critically important you lock up. Not only for the protection of your items but also to reduce the crime. In 2019, over 100 guns were stolen from cars, the majority of which had no forced entry so they were unlocked vehicles. That’s a way guns get onto the street that we can prevent by locking our cars and taking precautions.”

And those crimes of opportunity are also happening frequently in the city of Conway and North Myrtle Beach.

“Especially around the holidays,” said Conway Police Det. Jeff Jordan. “During the holidays, we have more people in town. A lot of the people that break into the cars use it as an opportunity to snatch and grab things out of the vehicle. It’s a big issue we deal with every year. So far this month, we’ve had about four or five. The previous month, we had about ten cases.”

“Any holiday season you’re going to have a spike in crime because you have a larger amount of people in the area,” said North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety Capt. Dana Crowell. “We take a lot of police reports for larcenies out of motor vehicles and the majority of those incidents are almost always unlocked doors.”

So before rushing onto the beach to soak in that Memorial Day sun, authorities are asking you to take their advice and lock up.

“Anything of value in the vehicle, such as purses, wallets, weapons, take it with you or take it into your house at nighttime when you go in,” Jordan said. “Park in well-lit areas, those things will help us deter these criminals.”

“Remove valuables, particularly hand guns, even if you’re just running in the store for a few minutes,” Crowell said. “Don’t forget to lock your door, it only takes a few minutes for a crime to happen.”

If you happen to see something suspicious, Crowell says you should contact the police department immediately in the jurisdiction where you’re located.

“If you’re in Myrtle Beach, call the Myrtle Beach Police Department. If you’re in North Myrtle Beach, call that department. If you’re in Horry County, call that police department directly and advise that agency,” Crowell said.

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