CHARLOTTE, N.C. - They are organized and quick, "in and out typically in 90 seconds." Police say a streamlined ring of cell phone thieves are targeting Charlotte area stores. "They're all over the county," says Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Staff Sergeant Brian Sanders.
Since October, police say there have been 24 break-ins. They're happening in the middle of the night. Some stores have been hit more than once. $60,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen. "All top of the line phones," says Sanders.
Surveillance cameras have captured the break-ins and the thieves method of entry: bricks, rocks or cinder blocks. So far three guys have been arrested in connection to the break-ins. Sanders says his investigators are looking for more people. He says, "We have leads and we have evidence."
The store employees we talked to didn't want to go on-camera, but are appreciative of the police department's efforts. A manager at Go Wireless told us, "Local police are diligent and they followed up and they're doing a really good job." PCS Experts Regional Manager Brandon Merenda calls the role of police "pivotal" but says the problem is far from over. He tells us,"To date, we have recovered no property or damages which measures in the tens of thousands; not to mention many sleepless nights."
Sanders says technology hasn't quite caught up to the thieves. The stolen phones are being used. Is this the perfect crime? Sanders says, "For now. I mean, they think it is. But we've vigilant and we won't stop until we have what we need."
Ultimately, the cost of this crime is passed on to you, the customer. The police want anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers 704-334-1600. Also, they urge store employees to be aware of unusual behavior. The thieves are casing the stores before the break-ins.