By mtjulietintern

Graphic by Mark Rodgers

After a significant increase in car thefts in Wilson County in 2017, a majority of which were later used for further crime, Wilson County sheriff’s deputies and Mt. Juliet police are urging residents to lock their car and secure their valuables.

Wilson County and especially Mt. Juliet saw a significant increase in car thefts from 153 and 14 respectively in 2016 to 244 and 52 in 2017.

Car thefts within the city limits of Mt. Juliet contributed to 21.31 percent of the total cars stolen in Wilson County.

According to Mt. Juliet police Capt. Tyler Chandler, an overwhelming majority of the cars stolen in Mt. Juliet were later used to commit some other type of crime. Only a small number was reportedly used for joyriding.

“Joyriding contributed to six of the car thefts in 2017. Joyriding is still reported as car theft,” said Chandler. “One hundred and nineteen thefts from motor vehicles were reported in 2017. This is a separate crime classification than car theft. An overwhelming majority of the burglarized or stolen cars were left unlocked. Those that were stolen had the keys left inside the car or the keys were in another unlocked car in the driveway.

“Please always check to ensure your car is locked, and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.”

Mt. Juliet saw the most car thefts in September with seven, while Wilson County had its biggest month in August with 38 reported car thefts. Overall, the most car thefts happened in the summer between June and August.

Similar incidents took place just across the city limits in Hermitage.

“It appears suspects are crossing over into Mt. Juliet to commit unlocked car burglaries and thefts, which we have experienced before,” said Chandler. “Our officers continue to work hard to prevent this type of activity, and detectives continue to work and share information with nearby agencies in hopes of stopping the suspects.”

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said a large portion of the increase came from a spree of teen car thefts that started in spring and lasted regularly until fall.

“Deputies encountered groups of teens from the Lebanon area, as well as Antioch and Lakewood areas out of Davidson County,” said Moore. Teens were hitting many well-populated areas such as subdivisions, where they would simply go open the doors of cars and find keys still in the ignition or just laying out in plain sight. If the keys were not found in an unsecure vehicle, they would move on to the next one.”

Some of the teens used the vehicles for joyriding and took anything valuable out of them before dumping them. Wilson County sheriff’s deputies also recovered stolen vehicles in Wilson County from other jurisdictions, including Brentwood, Franklin, Nashville and Hendersonville that were taken by teens who committed the same crimes.

Many of the cases led deputies on chases where weapons and drugs were found when the suspects were caught.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan urged residents to lock their cars and take everything valuable out of the car when they get out. He also suggested never leaving vehicles unattended to warm up in the mornings.

“These cases can be prevented by securing your vehicles properly every time you leave it unoccupied,” said Bryan. “Many times we find citizens make honest mistakes, where they are preoccupied by talking on their phone while exiting their vehicle and just simply forgetting to secure them. While this is also occurring in many jurisdictions around us, as well, we will continue to communicate with other agencies on this growing problem, and we ask the public to remain vigilant to secure their vehicles.”

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com