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Stolen cars increase over last year

LaGRANGE — Some car owners have woken up to a nightmare when they discovered their vehicles were stolen in front of their homes.

Others have left their cars in a parking lot or business only to return hours later to an empty parking space.

So far in 2016, at least 70 vehicles have been stolen within the LaGrange city limits, about a 20 percent increase from last year, said LaGrange Police Sgt. William Nelson.

That statistic also includes motorcycles, four-wheelers, ATVs and dirt bikes.

There have been some distinctive characteristics about some of the crimes. Most of the vehicles have been taken from the northeast side of the city, mainly around the Hogansville Road and Commerce Avenue area, said Nelson.

Recently, the thieves seem to have other characteristics in common.

“As of late it seems the suspects are looking for older model GM products,” Nelson said. “It appears that whoever is doing this may be from out of town or have connections out of town. We have found vehicles at various locations.”

One of the cars, a Chevrolet El Camino, was reported stolen from the Whispering Pines apartment complex at 1515 Hogansville Road on Aug. 27, according to an LPD report. The vehicle was located a few hours later on the side of Interstate 85 at mile marker 32, north of the Hogansville exit.

LaGrange police were unable to say how many stolen cars officers have recovered, but Nelson said they found one completely stripped of its parts.

“So far we have not found any indication of a chop shop,” he explained. “We’ve had some cases where people will tow a car, take it to a scrap yard and get money from it in that way.”

LaGrange police have made some arrests. Nelson said the department cleared 17 percent of their stolen car cases.

“The ones where we’ve made arrests are youthful offenders,” he said. “They were connected to burglaries of local car dealerships. They were stealing the keys and getting the cars. We’ve been working with the local car dealerships to take additional protective measures.”

Nelson said some of the stolen cars have been forcefully taken, while others were purely crimes of opportunity.

“Several left the keys in the car,” he explained. “We just ask that people make sure they secure their keys and their cars. Also, that citizens be on the look out for tow trucks in the area that seem to be picking up vehicles during the overnight hours. Especially if the tow trucks are from out of town or have no markings on their vehicles, or seem to be out of place.”

If people spot something suspicious, call 911 to report it, police emphasized.

Anyone with any information on stolen vehicles in LaGrange can contact the LaGrange Police Department at 706-883-2603 or Troup County Crime Stoppers at 706-812-1000. Callers can remain anonymous.

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LPD: Dealerships, northeast neighborhoods hardest hit

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.