The ongoing coronavirus lockdown has had many people feeling stir crazy or otherwise struggling. Past weeks have seen reports of kids having an especially tough time adjusting. Now, authorities in North Carolina are reporting that a group of minors, some as young as 9, are responsible for stealing 46 cars from 12 different dealerships over the past few weeks.
What’s more, COVID-19 measures may be making it more difficult for police to apprehend the children responsible.
Dozens of Cars Stolen
The thefts reportedly began on March 17 in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina, according to CNN. Police say the minors stole the cars over 18-20 separate break-ins of car dealerships around the Winston-Salem area.
“Detectives have identified nineteen (19) juveniles known to be involved with these thefts,” a release from the Winston-Salem Police Department said. “Those juveniles range in age from sixteen (16) to nine (9) years of age.”
The 46 stolen cars were taken from Honda, Lexus, Ford, Audi, Toyota, Volvo, Subaru and Chevrolet dealerships, reports the Charlotte Observer. The outlet reports that the total value of the stolen care came to about $1.1 million.
So far, only one arrest has been made in connection with the case. Nineteen-year-old Mekeal Binns (pictured above) was reportedly arrested on March 25 for possession of one of the stolen vehicles. Police are also charging Binns with resisting arrest and violating probation, holding him on $20,000 bail.
Thieves Shielded by COVID-19?
Meanwhile, authorities have had trouble apprehending the juvenile suspects. Because of the suspects’ young ages, police are required to obtain custody orders from the Forsyth County Department of Juvenile Justice before bringing them in. According to the police release, “Detectives have sought, and thus far have been denied, secure custody orders” from the department.
While no official reason has been given for the denial, the Charlotte Observer points out that North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety recently pledged to minimize the number of youth in detention due to fears of spreading COVID-19. Reportedly, the department’s plan is to rely more heavily on electronic monitoring instead.
While the juvenile suspects have been difficult to nab, police have been able to recover all but six of the 46 stolen cars.
“Detectives are continuing their efforts to investigate these crimes and to prevent future thefts,” the police statement said. “Authorities are working with local dealerships to better secure their facilities and to initiate steps to prevent thieves from obtaining vehicles’ keys; if they succeed in gaining entry into the dealership.”