Atlanta police respond to 22% surge in car break-ins

APD is working about 200 cases each week
Thieves didn't merely break in to this vehicle. They actually removed the doors.

Thieves didn't merely break in to this vehicle. They actually removed the doors.

Thieves didn’t merely break into Andrew Buchwald’s car the other day. They took part of the car.

“They smashed a window, and completely removed and stole two of the doors,” he said.

He was getting ready for work on Tuesday morning when the property manager of his Midtown building called with the alarming news.

“I parked between two cars in a gated garage. The garage has floor-to-ceiling gates,” said Buchwald, who’s driving a rental while his SUV is repaired. “It’s so absurd. I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it.”

The Atlanta Police Department has seen a 22% increase so far this year in thefts from vehicles and investigates about 200 cases of larceny from autos each week, according to the department’s crime data.

“There’s nothing more awful than finding your car window bashed out along with the personal violation of having your car rummaged though in the middle of a rainstorm,” said Jamie Ensley, whose car was left with a smashed window and soaked interior recently.

Jamie Ensley's car was broken into recently.

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>> RELATED: Suspects sought in 3 sets of car break-ins, including 76 at Beltline

>> ALSO: Atlanta police nab 3 suspects in car break-ins near Ponce City Market

Through Feb. 15, Atlanta police had investigated 1,403 cases of larceny from cars. During the same period in 2019, officers investigated 1,154 thefts from vehicles.

During a single night in January, 76 car break-ins were reported at an apartment complex along the Beltline, between the Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park neighborhoods. On Sunday, undercover APD officers were assigned to Williams H. Borders Drive in southeast Atlanta. Shortly after midnight, officers saw a man breaking into one vehicle and scoping out others in the area, according to police.

“The officers noticed the suspect looking into several parked vehicles on Gartrell Street, utilizing a flashlight to peer into cars,” Atlanta police said. “Other patrol units were contacted and converged on the area, blocking off the suspect’s escape options.”

When the suspect, later identified as Markel Wilson, saw the officers, he ran and jumped over a fence. But officers were able to apprehend Wilson, who had a black flashlight and lanyard around his neck along with a tool for breaking windows, police said.

Wilson, 23, was arrested and charged with obstructing officers, loitering or prowling, possession of tools to commit a crime, criminal damage to property second degree, entering automobiles, damage to property and defrauding another. He was being held Tuesday afternoon at the Fulton County jail on $7,000 bond, booking records showed.

In a separate incident early Sunday, an alert resident let officers know she saw a man pulling on door handles of cars parked on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, according to police.

The break-ins happened at The Edge apartment complex along Edgewood Avenue.

An officer located Arnold Revels about a quarter-mile from where the witness spotted him, police said. The witness positively identified the 47-year-old Revels, who was arrested and charged with entering auto and criminal attempt and loitering. He was being held without bond Tuesday at the Fulton jail.

“If you see something suspicious, call or text 911,” Atlanta police said. “Residents in this neighborhood can rest easier tonight knowing there are two fewer thieves on the streets and more APD officers on patrol keeping them safe.”

The Atlanta Police Department urges people to safeguard their valuables.

“APD wants the community to know that we are doing everything in our power to catch the thieves breaking into cars and to reduce crime in general,” the agency posted on its Facebook page.  “APD reminds people to remove all valuables and other items from cars, especially firearms. Doing so can help reduce your chance of being the victim of a car break-in.”

Not that clearing out your car safeguards it entirely. Leah Moore has experienced two car break-ins in the past two months. Only once did thieves take anything, but in both instances they left a mess.

Thieves broke into Leah Moore's car and left a mess behind although they didn't actually take anything.

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Mark Tiller was waiting for an early-morning Uber to the airport recently when he noticed his own car looked amiss. Upon inspection and review of his security system’s camera footage, he figured out that his vehicle had become a target.

“It is frustrating,” he said. “You feel like, man, that was pretty bold.”

In addition to the security camera, his Atlanta property is well-illuminated with floodlights. None of that deterred two people from rifling through his car at just after 4 a.m.

“I was just surprised to see how brazen they were,” Tiller said.

He’s in the habit of never keeping anything of value in his car, so the thieves’ haul was pretty slender. They made off with some REM CDs and whatever was in the change tray. Still, to have his car set upon despite his robust security measures was unsettling.

“It’s tragic and sad. What makes someone take to the streets?” Tiller said, wondering about those responsible. “The leadership of our city, I don’t know what they’re paying attention to. It’s not this. It doesn’t seem like anyone’s listening.”

In addition to Atlanta police, other metro agencies are also encouraging residents to do their part to help prevent becoming crime victims.

“Park your car in a well-lit area and make sure you are mindful of the area where you park,” Gwinnett County police Cpl. Collin Flynn said. “These types of criminals often target large group events like sporting events and concerts.”

In Cherokee County, the Sheriff’s Office is hopeful a new program that allows people to register their security cameras will help catch criminals in the act. So far, 385 people have registered cameras, according to Capt. Jay Baker. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have access to anything on the cameras, only the location, he said.

“They simply register their location and if we have any crimes in a particular area, we can check to see if there are any registered cameras nearby,” Baker said. “We then can call them and ask if their camera captured the suspects on video.”

— Staff writer Jennifer Brett contributed to this article.