From late August to the middle of September, Starkville was plagued by a rash of car robberies. From Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, 67 burglaries were reported to the Starkville Police Department. Since then, the volume has declined, with only 40 reported from Sept. 15 until the present, but criminals are still active.
Sergeant Brandon Lovelady, the Public Information Officer for SPD, gave insight into this problem facing Oktibbeha County.
“Most auto burglaries are something as simple as an unlocked door,” Lovelady said. “Almost every single one that I’ve ever seen in my time here (since 2008) was an unsecured door. There are very few times – though they do happen – that we did have some smash and grabs … That is out of the ordinary to have a broken window or anything like that.”
Recently, some burglars did break windows to access valuables inside cars, but Lovelady emphasized the unusual aspect of those crimes, noting those particular acts were attributed to individuals who did not permanently reside in Starkville. According to Lovelady, smash-and-grabs are less frequent because the thieves are less likely to escape due to the attention-grabbing sounds created by smashing windows.
Lovelady provided a video of the much more common case: silently trying car doors to find the unlocked ones. In the film, a young man is seen systematically testing every car in an apartment complex.
“We’ve historically seen a lot in apartment complexes because (they are) densely populated with vehicles,” Lovelady said.
Recently, an MSU student fell victim to this exact type of crime.
Morgan Carter, a sophomore majoring in finance, exited her residence at the Retreat on the morning of Oct. 18 and went to her car. At first, she was confused by what she found.
“I looked in it, and my Ray-Bans were sitting on my passenger seat,” Carter said.
Her debit card also was on the passenger seat, while her wallet sat in the driver’s seat. Overall, her car seemed messier than usual. It all came together when she opened her wallet.
“I opened up my wallet, and all the cards and stuff were out of it,” Carter said. “I still had all of them, but they were all out. All the cash and the change was gone, but they left all the change in my console, all the jewelry, my Ray-Bans, all these other things they could have taken – just the cash and change in my wallet.”
The culprit only made off with around $30 from Carter’s car, but she was not the only one broken into over the night.
“I had to file a police report, and while I was filing a police report, multiple other cars came by and were like, ‘Are you filing a police report?’” she said. “Apparently six other people filed police reports that day.”
According to Carter, at least one person lost over $100. Carter said she regrets not locking her car that night.
“My car key was messed up. So, it would lock like 80% of the time, and I guess that night it didn’t. Because I live in a gated community, I thought it would be OK, and it was not … I was fortunate that I didn’t lose that much, but other people did,” Carter said.
Carter has since gotten a new battery for her key and said she would be more diligent about locking her car in the future.
One student who has not had any issues is Sam Rooks, a junior industrial technology major. He locks his car every night and said it has never been broken into.
Rooks said he does not worry about car robberies, and Lovelady confirmed that the statistics bear out his confidence. By just locking the car at night, drivers can sleep peacefully. Not every single robbery is stopped by a locked door, but the vast majority can be. Anyone with a car would be well advised to keep it locked every night.