BUFORD, Ga. - More Ford trucks were targeted by a thief or thieves last weekend in the Mall of Georgia area.
Gwinnett County Police responded to four car break-ins on Jan. 19 -- two on Mall of Georgia Boulevard and two on Buford Drive. The incidents are the latest in a string of January car break-ins in which the locks on Ford F150s and Ford 250s have been pried or punched.
According to Major John Strickland, GCPD North Precinct Commander, the department is closely monitoring the recent entering autos.
"We are working closely with the Mall of Georgia Security and have increased patrols," Strickland wrote in an email to Patch. "This includes patrols in marked patrol cars, unmarked cars, foot patrols, and bicycle patrol on all three shifts. Reports have been forwarded to detectives in every incident."
Two of the most recent incidents currently under investigation took place at Costco on Mall of Georgia Boulevard. In one instance, a Costco employee reported that his 2000 Ford F250 was broken into some time between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. According to the police report, the driver's side door handle had been pried in order to gain access to the locking rods inside the door. The employee advised that he had some change and a Bowie knife in the center console of the vehicle, but they were not taken. In the other Costco incident, a Flowery Branch man said the lock on his 2004 Ford F250 was punched and the door handle damaged while he and his wife shopped between 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. Though the vehicle had valuable tools and equipment inside -- as well as a firearm -- none of the items were taken. The man told police he is sure someone was in the vehicle though because it appeared as if the contents had been disturbed.
Later that afternoon, two similar break-ins were reported at nearby restaurants. A Buford man said his 2002 Ford F150 was broken into while he and a friend dined at Olive Garden on Buford Drive. When the Buford man left the restaurant at 3:50 p.m., he noticed the lock on the driver's side door was broken and that someone had been in the vehicle. The man said a few pieces of mail were the only items of his that were taken. His friend, however, had left her purse inside the vehicle. The purse -- which contained her identification, a credit card, two debit cards, jewelry, her Social Security card, a Zoloft prescription and a Lortab prescription -- was missing.
During roughly the same time period, a 2005 Ford F150 parked next door at the Red Lobster was also entered. The owner, a Loganville man, said the lock on the driver's side door of his vehicle had been punched. The man believed his alarm system was armed and did not know why it failed to activate. Shoes, a wallet and sweaters with a total estimated value of $426 were taken.
All four cases are listed as active.
Police are currently investigating several similar incidents. On Jan. 12, a 2003 Ford Excursion and a 2001 Ford F150 were entered at the Mall of Georgia when a thief or thieves pried the door handles. Two handguns were among the items taken.
On Jan. 18, a thief or thieves punched the locks on a 2009 Ford F150 at Taco Mac and a 2006 Ford F250 at L.A. Fitness. A 2003 Ford F150 was also broken into at L.A. Fitness, but the owner was not sure how the perpetrator gained access to the interior.
These type of car break-ins have not been limited to the mall area. In November, . In that instance, the thief pried the security keypad off the driver's side door of the truck.
According to JimmiJammer.com -- a company that sells in-door lock protection plates for Ford trucks -- punching locks and prying under the door handle are the two preferred methods for breaking into Ford trucks. In the first method, a thief simply punches the lock straight into the door cavity. Using the pry method, the thief uses a tool to pry under the door handle in order to gain access to the lock rods inside the door. The thief can then force the rod to move and unlock the door.
Though physical security measures are one way to prevent car break-ins, police advise citizens to take care not to make their vehicle an attractive target for thieves.
"A common trend is that victims are leaving valuables exposed in plain sight," Strickland indicated. "Citizens should be reminded to never leave valuables such as purses, notebooks, GPS [units], cell phones, and shopping bags in plain sight. Leaving items in plain view greatly increases the likelihood of the car being entered."
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