Charlie Lanter was watching his son's Southwest PONY baseball game at Cardinal Run Park Friday when someone in the crowd asked if anyone drove a dark gray truck — it's windows had been smashed.
Lanter went to the parking lot — just behind one of the fields — and found a rear window of his truck smashed and his wife's purse gone, which had been stashed on the floor in the back seat. "I’ve got pretty dark tinted windows so I’m surprised they could even see it in there," Lanter said.
He wasn't the only vehicle owner checking damage in the parking lot that night.
Four vehicle thefts were reported to Lexington Police at Cardinal Run off of Parkers Mill Road that night, Lexington Police said.
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Four days earlier, on June 4, thieves broke into at least one vehicle across town near Ecton Park off of Turkey Foot Road, which was being used by Eastern Little League, Lexington Police said. The window was smashed and a purse was stolen.
Are the two connected?
Maybe. Maybe not, police said.
In the Cardinal Run thefts, police got a description of the vehicle and possible suspects. They did not in the Ecton Park vehicle break-in.
Larceny from automobiles — as they are called in police lingo — "are very common," said Brenna Angel, a spokeswoman for Lexington Police. "They are one of the most frequently occurring crimes in Lexington."
Over the past month, from May 11 to the present, Lexington Police took more than 200 reports for larcenies from vehicles, Angel said.
And that number is probably low because it's an under-reported crime, she said.
For example, Lanter, the director of grants and special programs for the city of Lexington, counted at least six cars that had been broken into at Cardinal Run Friday, but police only received reports on four.
"There are likely many more people who discovered their car/truck had been rummaged through or something small stolen and did not report it to police," Angel said. "Sometimes the suspects are 'professional thieves' that travel around in groups looking for targets, while other incidents involve juveniles. We’ve seen it all. "
They target areas where there are lots of vehicles — fitness centers, festivals, hospitals, malls, parks and sports fields.
In particular, many people don't want to bring a purse, wallet or computer with them at parks and fitness centers.
"People leave valuables and purses in a console, tucked underneath a jacket or in the back seat, and they’re away from their vehicle for an hour or more," Angel said. "But thieves may be watching and looking for things to grab. "
Police also see many vehicle break-ins in neighborhoods. People often forget to lock their car doors when the car is parked on the driveway just outside their house.
"People will leave valuables in plain view or just simply forget to lock their door," Angel said. "That’s also how many vehicles get stolen. Someone will accidentally leave a car unlocked, and inside the glove box is a spare key to another car that’s parked in the driveway. "
She suggested putting valuables in the trunk before reaching a destination so would-be thieves who may be watching don't know where those valuables are located. If the vehicle doesn't have a trunk, take your valuables with you, Angel said.
Lanter said he and his wife were lucky, because they discovered the theft almost immediately and were able to quickly cancel all of his wife's bank cards.
"She only had about 10 bucks cash in there so they didn’t get much and nothing else was taken," Lanter said.