Before driving to church April 10, junior Kelsey Snell noticed her iPod was missing.
At first she thought one of her friends had it because there were no signs of a break-in, but she received a call from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department a few days later.
“They called because my name was engraved on the back (of the iPod),” Snell said. “They caught the guy trying to break into a house while he had a stolen car. I guess we were lucky he didn’t try to get into our house.”
A recent spike in car break-ins has prompted Chapel Hill police to advise residents and students to be more careful when leaving their cars unattended.
According to Chapel Hill Police Department data, 121 incidents of car break-ins have been reported this year — 24 have occurred this month, with six reported April 1.
“As a whole, numbers have been down this year,” said Lt. Jabe Hunter. “But in the last two weeks or so we’ve noticed a spike in incidents.”
The increase has led Hunter to alert various community watch groups to be on the look-out for suspicious activity.
He said there has been a cluster of activity in the Northside neighborhood, where many students live.
Chapel Hill police spokesman Lt. Kevin Gunter said many vehicles have been broken into through the windows, but many have also been left unlocked.
Common stolen items include iPods, GPS navigators and cellphones.
Hunter said thefts have occurred mainly in the evening when people are sleeping, and some are premeditated.
“Guys are walking around looking for targets,” Hunter said. “It only takes them a few seconds to break in or unlock the door.”
The onset of spring can also contribute to crime, as the weather improves and people are frequently in and out of their cars, Gunter said.
To prevent a theft from occurring, he emphasized the importance of hiding valuable items in trunks or indoors.
Residents should also write down the serial numbers of their electronics so police can return them to the correct owners, Hunter said.
Suspicious person calls are invaluable to preventing thefts because it is hard to retroactively investigate many thefts, Hunter said.
“People think these phone calls are a waste of our time,” he said. “But I’d rather come out for something that doesn’t pan out than have people be afraid.”
Snell said she has learned to keep her car doors locked, after her iPod was taken from her car.
“The girls in my house sat down and said ‘Look, this isn’t a joke, lock the doors,’” Snell said. “We may be in Chapel Hill, but it’s not all southern charm.”
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