KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Car break-ins are on the rise in some parts of Tennessee. In Knoxville, police say numbers are spiking — up nearly 30 percent from around July last year.
In 60 cases reported this year alone, guns were stolen and half of those vehicles were left unlocked, giving thieves easy access to valuables. The Knoxville Police Department is sending the public an important warning to lock their cars.
Authorities say this has been an ongoing issue downtown for years. However, more and more people who live on the outskirts of the city are falling victim to vehicle-related crimes.
Scott Erland with Knoxville Police Department said that opportunity can easily be eliminated by locking cards and keeping your valuables out of sight.
“These are crimes of opportunity, largely crimes of opportunity,” he said. “They’re going to check your door handle; it’s going to be locked. They’re going to move on. No valuables in sight, so they’re going to move on again.”
Being robbed isn’t on most people’s bucket lists, but by not locking your car you could be contributing to even more dangerous crimes. Police said that a hot ticket item on a robbery’s list is firearms.
“We’ve received over 60 reports this year of vehicle burglaries that have also resulted in the theft where it’s been reported that a firearm has been stolen from the vehicle,” Erland said.
In nearly half of those, he said, cars were left unlocked. The guns stolen from cars are usually used in violent crimes like homicides, police said.
Even if they don’t score a firearm, it clearly doesn’t stop them from trying. Erland says there have been more than 1,200 vehicle burglaries in the city since this time last year. It nearly happened to one University of Tennessee student, Braxton Clark.
He told WBIR Friday afternoon two men came to his neighborhood looking for a heist.
“The neighbor across the street heard some guys beating on my truck. Her dog was freaking out, so she went out there. She started recording,” Clark said.
The suspect got away, Clark said, but only a few hours later he learned his neighbor’s Jeep was stolen from a church around the block.
“It’s kind of scary. We thought Knoxville was a safe place. Hopefully, things will change," he said.
His truck lock was damaged. He says it will take about $500 to repair; however, his main concern is to stop the men responsible. He’s turned to the community and Facebook for help.
A post he made about the incident has been shared widely across social media, making its way through major groups on Facebook.
If you have any information about car break-ins, or can identify the man in Clark's case, call the East Tennessee Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.