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Massive spike in vehicle burglaries has county on high alert

Vehicle burglaries have increased by 152 percent, forcing law enforcement to remind residents to be alert and lock their cars. (Merrilee Moore, NewsChannel 12 photo)

A massive spike in vehicle burglaries in one local area has law enforcement warning residents to be on high alert.

Onslow County is currently experiencing a 152 percent increase in vehicle burglaries compared to this time last year. Investigators said the best thing residents can do is keep their cars locked.

"The trend that we're seeing is that easy access," Mark Ketchum, an officials with the Criminal Investigative Division, said. "They simply go to the car and make an attempt to get in simply by pulling on the door handles. If the door handle opens up, they go in, rummage through, try to find what they can of value."

68 people in Onslow County have experienced this type of burglary in just over one month. During this time last year, that number was 27.

"Who knows?" Ketchum said when asked why there's a spike. "There's no way to really tell exactly why or what reasoning there is behind the individuals doing this."

While it's hard to understand why the spike is happening, it's easy to map out a plan for officers to try and prevent something like this from happening to more people by using GEO policing technology.

"The technology gives us computer programs that takes all the data from the reports that we receive in and basically dumps that data into this program and we're able to pull up the areas that the crimes are occurring more," Ketchum said.

With this technology, investigators look for trends -- the days, times and places the break-ins are happening most -- then deploy a special unit to patrol those areas at those times.

"Basically manpower," Ketchum said, "Just using -- being more efficient with our manpower based off of the you know the numbers that we see in the program."

While police work to prevent crime on their end, there are also some basic preventative measures residents can take to protect themselves.

"Make sure their doors are locked before they go in in the evening time, make sure that their valuables - any valuables at all - take them inside with them, don't leave them in the vehicles," Ketchum said.

While you may think your glove compartment is a safe place for your stuff, Ketchum said you shouldn't rely on a glove compartment to store your belongings -- even if it locks. He said to make sure you take anything valuable inside with you when you leave your car.

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