KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Car owners beware -- Kingsport police are busy investigating a string of auto burglaries this month.
One of those victims we first told you about Monday when thieves broke into a Sullivan County detective's unmarked car. Click here to read about that case.
Investigators say the culprit made off with protective vests, handcuffs, and even a handgun.
Police tell us this kind of crime comes and goes in waves. We did some digging and learned that in Kingsport from April 2012 to March 2013, there have been a total of 572 car break-ins.
You can call it a habit -- Lee Lawrence says she always clicks the lock button on her car keys when she's out shopping. "That's the first thing I do when i get out is lock [the car]," she told us.
But there's bad news for some drivers in Kingsport. Police tell us just in the month of April there have been a total of 20 car break-ins all across the city, four or five of them in the Higher Heights area alone.
Kingsport police officer Tom Patton tells us this is concerning news. With most car break-ins, doors are unlocked or there are high-dollar items in plain view. "There's a reason that they select the car over another," Patton explained.
But this old-fashioned crime has a new twist; we learned thieves are now targeting items usually considered unassuming. "[They're taking] a handful of loose change, empty shopping bags, empty pharmacy bags where they break in to see what might be in that bag," Patton said.
Police say the solution to fighting this crime of opportunity is a simple one: lock your doors and leave nothing behind. "Thieves are out there and they're not going away," Patton told us.
Police say to always report a break-in, simply because it helps investigators establish a pattern that could help them track down a suspect.