CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New numbers from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police department show there have been 4,816 reported larceny from auto cases reported so far in 2019.

That breaks down to about 800 a month. 

"These criminals are very smart," CMPD Captain Brian Sanders admitted.
“Just like we're good as professionals at what we do, they are very good at what they do."

Sanders said they work hard around to find car break-in suspects, but tacking the rising crime is tricky work from the law enforcement perspective.

“Larceny from vehicle crimes are some of the hardest to clear," he said. 

At NBC Charlotte's request, CMPD compiled year to date statistics relating to car break-ins by division. Those numbers are as follows:

savannah table

Captain Sanders works in the Steele Creek division, which saw an increase of larceny from autos this year.

He said that could be contributed to both the large size of the jurisdiction and a recently-arrested group of criminals who may be linked to dozens of those cases.

"We’ve identified some groups that have been responsible for a good number of this increase," Sanders said. 

That group includes nine adults and several minors as young as 15. 

"These older guys will grab ahold of the younger ones and make them do the crime for them," Sanders said. "It's frustrating."

NBC Charlotte wanted to get inside the mind of one of these criminals, to know exactly what cars they target and when.

Steve Sivertson spent 11 years behind bars for breaking into and stealing cars. His meth addiction fueled his life of crime. Now reformed, he agreed to explain us what criminals look for.

"It was pretty easy," he said. 

Sivertson said things like NRA or hunting stickers usually mean guns. Those cute stick figure families mean kids’ electronics could be inside. 

He also suggested taking everything out of your car because for an addict, the bar for what’s valuable is pretty low.

“If I’m hard up enough and I walk by six cars with change, I know I’ve got 20 bucks, so I’m gonna break your windows," he said. 

Captain Sanders said even a charger tucked away could lead a criminal to think a phone could be attached.

"Make your car look completely empty," Sanders said. "Always, always lock your car."

Sanders said they know the criminals are skilled in picking cars that are likely to have valuables inside.

“In the interviews we’ve done over the years, they have been dead on accurate," Captain Sanders said. “Groups will come together for five sometimes up to 10 and that’s what they do.”

CMPD vowed to not let this crime trend continue. Even though car break-ins are up 3% from this time last year, there have been 20% more arrests.