Car thefts move to Claremont

Claremont Police Department received six reports this week of vehicle larcenies, which continues a stream of thefts from unlocked vehicles in Catawba County.

Claremont Police Capt. Gary Bost said six cars were broken into late Sunday night or early Monday morning. The unknown suspects opened the unlocked vehicles and removed electronic items, such as radios, CD players or GPS units.

The latest crime wave is one of at least three to hit Catawba County in the past month, when Conover Police reported more than a dozen vehicle break-ins in the city's southeast and northeast quadrants.

Conover Police Chief Steve Brewer said Wednesday that Conover's vehicle break-ins appear to have stopped for now. He didn't know of the Claremont break-ins, but he said it's possible those responsible for the thefts moved from one city to another.

Bost agreed. He said the unknown suspects who burglarized Conover cars appear to be acting in the same manner in Claremont — they target unlocked cars, steal small electronic devices and focus on vehicles within a small radius.

The Claremont break-ins happened on Calvin and Lookout streets, which is about a block from downtown. Vehicles were parked in driveways at their respective houses, which means those responsible for the break-ins come within feet of their victims, Bost said.

Bost said Conover has names of persons of interest in the case, but for now, no arrests have been made. He estimated that those responsible for the crime are in their 20s.

Until an arrest is made in the incidents, Bost encouraged residents to use good judgment when leaving their vehicles parked outside.

"Make sure you keep your cars locked," he said.

Bost also advised people to remove anything of value from the vehicle or hide the valuables from sight.

He said thieves appear to snatch items that are easily and quickly removed from the vehicle. Those items are then sold for quick cash. Bost said a GPS unit sells for $50-100. Many items, such as GPS units or MP3 players, don't have serial numbers and can't be traced to original owners.

Police received a tip Tuesday from one Claremont woman who reported seeing a suspicious black male walking along the roadway with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. That tip gave police more information about who the car thieves could be, and Bost hopes more people will call in reporting suspicious activity.

"If anybody sees anyone walking along the street, and they seem suspicious, give us a call," Bost said.

Brewer also encouraged residents to report suspicious activity. He said residents in Conover reported hearing their dogs barking before their vehicles were broken into, which might have alerted residents to the crime sooner.

Anyone with information about car break-ins in Conover or Claremont is asked to call Conover Police Department at (828) 464-4698 or Claremont Police Department at (828) 459-9298.