Pelham police investigating car burglary string

Published 1:45 pm Monday, July 25, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham police said they believe a local suspect or group of suspects are responsible for a recent rash of automotive burglaries in and around the Chandalar subdivision.

Police Capt. Larry Palmer said the department responded to several reports of items missing from vehicles parked in the subdivision during the week ending July 23.

According to the department’s police reports, officers responded to a total of 12 automotive burglary and theft of property charges in the Chandalar subdivision and nearby Sommersby Circle, which is about a mile south of Chandalar on Alabama 261.

According to the reports, suspects stole a total of more than 35 items valued at more than $6,700 from cars in the area.

Palmer said none of the cases involved breaking and entering vehicles.

“It was a situation where someone was going around and pulling on car doors to see if they were unlocked,” Palmer said July 25. “We received the reports near the end of the week last week, but the thefts happened over a period of about a week.”

The car burglaries were reported shortly after Pelham police arrested five out-of-town suspects on similar charges. On July 13, police arrested three people from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a Tuscaloosa woman and a Cottondale woman on burglary and breaking and entering charges, among others.

Police said the suspects arrested July 13 are believed to be part of the national “Felony Lane Gang,” which, police said, travels the country and breaks into parked cars to steal personal information and commit identity theft against the victims.

Palmer said members of the Felony Lane Gang also “ransacked” several areas of Pelham’s surrounding cities before they were arrested.

Because the Chandalar burglaries did not coincide with a rise in burglaries in other cities, Palmer said they likely were caused by a local suspect or suspects.

“If we have a lot of burglaries like that in a short amount of time, and nobody else does, it usually means someone local is doing it,” Palmer said.

Palmer urged Pelham residents to keep their cars locked while they are parked, even if they are in a driveway. He also said most of the burglaries occurred when valuables and other items inside the car were clearly visible from outside the vehicle.

“One of the victims actually had a book bag laying in their car seat,” Palmer said. “I guess the suspect thought it was a computer bag, but all they got was a backpack with a chemistry book in it.”

Palmer said the department is still investigating the burglaries, and is searching for suspects. Palmer also said police have stepped up patrols in the affected areas.