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Kingsport auto burglary rate skyrockets; police warn drivers to lock their cars

KACIE DINGUS BREEDING • Jul 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT - Lock your doors. Lock your doors. Lock your doors. Frustrated Kingsport police couldn't say it enough Monday after a "ridiculous number" of auto burglaries - as many as 23 - were reported between Friday and Monday, with a majority of those cases involving either unlocked doors or items left in plain view.

"If people could just lock their cars and get these items out of plain view, it would help a whole lot," said Kingsport Police Department spokesman Tom Patton, re-emphasizing the importance of two of the points made in a press release the KPD issued last week to help the public reduce their chances of becoming a victim.

KPD Detective Hank McQueen, charged with investigating most of these incidents, reiterated that residents shouldn't leave their vehicle doors unlocked, and all valuables should be removed from the vehicle or at least kept out of plain sight.

"If the doors are unlocked, they're just going in and getting stuff out of the car," McQueen said.

"If they don't see anything laying out in the car, then chances are they're going to go to the next car where they do," McQueen added.

McQueen said the auto burglaries weren't confined to a particular area. His investigations include auto burglaries reported downtown as well as in residential areas along Watauga Street, Garden Drive and the Fairacres neighborhood.

In some cases, even cars that were parked in a driveway, rather than on the street, were burglarized, McQueen said.

McQueen suggested homeowners leave exterior lights on at night.

"It makes it a little more difficult and a little more risky for them to walk up next to your house," he added.

McQueen believes at least two or three groups of individuals may be responsible for the recent spike in auto burglary activity, and police have a few leads on who may be responsible.

"It's all about the drugs," McQueen said, adding that he believes a significant majority - possibly 90 percent - of auto burglaries are committed by drug addicts.

"They get hooked on the drugs, and they steal and do whatever they can to buy the drugs," he said.

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