KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Three men are in police custody, following a string of vehicle break-ins of Northwest Knoxville early Thursday morning, Knoxville Police announced.
A KPD spokesperson said authorities have received 15 complaints, but that number could still go up as more reports come in.
Police identified the three suspects as Rocky Joseph Bartolomei, 23, Tyler Haynes, 18, and Joseph Davis, 18. They said all three were charged with one count of Felony Auto Burglary, with more charges possible as the investigation continues.
They were first alerted to the break-ins around 2:00 a.m., when officers were called to a home at 3208 Walnoaks Road. Several more calls came in about other burglaries, but officers were having a tough time locating any suspects.
Finally, about an hour after the first call, officers were tipped off to a burglary in progress on Pleasant Trace and a witness was able to provide a description of the three suspects. A few minutes later, the victim in another break-in was able to tell officers which way the suspects were heading. Officers found them on Bradshaw Garden.
Authorities pointed out all of the vehicles were left unlocked and they found no sign of forced entry. The perpetrators even left purses in several of the vehicles, police stated, grabbing money, jewelry, medicine, and other personal items instead.
Darrell Debusk with the Knoxville Police Department said, "These individuals were walking through, lifting up the door handles, looking for their next victim, and unfortunately they found a lot of vehicles that had been left unlocked."
But the area is likely what attracted the thefts, because there are plenty of vehicles in one area. KPD says shopping centers, apartment parking lots, and other busy areas are usually target.
"All too often these victims have left purses, laptops, cell phones, GPS units," and Debusk said that just attracts a thief.
Hiding your GPS or radar detector isn't enough, make sure you move the accessories as well, like cables or the mounts. "Most of the time they leave a suction cup mark on the window or the dash," he said.
But make sure you take the time to hide your items, before you park in a public place, because Debusk said, "They'll actually sit in the parking lot and watch you pull in."
And you could be stuck with the cost of replacing what is stolen if you don't have the right insurance.
State Farm Insurance Agent Mike Lewis said, "You can have personal property stolen, and that would normally be covered on your homeowner's policy, and damage to your car, like vandalism, that would be your auto policy." If you don't own a home, renter's insurance will cover your property.
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