Police here are encouraging residents to be vigilant and proactive in response to a flurry of vehicle break-ins over the first two weekends in March.
Wendell police say thieves rummaged through 21 vehicles at 16 addresses across town but mostly in the connected Timberlake and Cedarmere neighborhoods just off of Wendell Boulevard. Property was taken from five of the vehicles, and one vehicle was stolen from Deer Lake Trail.
Police think the vehicles were unlocked in all of the cases.
“This doesn’t just happen in Wendell,” Police Chief Bill Carter said. “It’s purely a crime of opportunity. You may consciously lock your vehicle every night, but the one night you don’t is the one night someone goes into it.”
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In a statement released Tuesday, Carter said Knightdale police helped in the cases, which might have been hard to solve otherwise.
Knightdale officers on March 11 stopped the vehicle stolen from Deer Lake Trail. Seven people, including minors, were in the vehicle, police said.
Through the investigation that followed, police identified three suspects in the break-ins and vehicle theft. Two of them are juveniles.
The third suspect, Philip Eldridge, 16, of 501 Meadow Lane, Wendell, was charged with 21 counts of felony breaking or entering of a motor vehicle, one count of felony larceny, one count of felony larceny of a motor vehicle, four counts of misdemeanor larceny, three counts of misdemeanor possession of stolen property and one count of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
Carter said police have recovered most of the stolen property.
“I ask people to help us help them in preventing them becoming victims of these crimes,” Carter said. “Lock your cars, don’t leave valuables in your cars that people can see, and then park where there’s light. If you have a garage and there’s a light over your garage, change it to a motion-sensor light. If someone walks by it and it triggers it, they’re not going to stay around.”
Wendell police urge people to report suspicious activity in town by calling the department at 919-365-4444.