Police search for car break-in suspect
by Ellen Corker
Coweta County Sheriff’s Office investigators are looking for suspects who broke into vehicles recently at the Summit YMCA and Cornerstone United Methodist Church on Georgia Highway 34 East, and then used stolen financial transaction cards to make purchases at area stores and at a gas station.
It may be the same offender in both cases, but sheriff’s investigators said they could not be certain at this point in the investigation.
The man who used the stolen cards is seen in surveillance images from the Publix grocery at Thomas Crossroads and at the Shell gas station at Interstate 85 Exit 56 at Collinsworth Road.
Investigators are urging patrons of Coweta-area gyms and businesses to take precautions. Investigators said they are surprised at how many people go to local gyms, hide their purses and valuables in the car, and then go inside for hours at a time. It doesn’t take but a moment’s work to break a window, remove the purse or wallet and then drive away, officials said.
The Chrysler vehicle shown in one of the surveillance photos is the actual automobile used by the suspect making the gas purchase. Investigators said it appears to have a “drive- out” tag.
One of the surveillance images shows a man at the exit door of Publix grocery on April 17 during daytime hours. Investigators believe he is the offender who broke into a vehicle at Summit YMCA on Ga. Highway 34 East and then used the victim’s financial transaction card to purchase items at the Thomas Crossroads Publix and at the Baker Road CVS drug store.
At the time, investigators did not think the suspect was local and urged patrons to be on the lookout at the Summit health building and YMCA parking lots for suspicious people sitting in their cars.
Coweta investigators believe the offender - or offenders - watches gym patrons as they conceal wallets or purses and waits for them to go inside and then breaks a window to get to those items.
The automobiles were not rifled through. In the April 17 incident, a pistol was stored in the vehicle glove box but it was left by the offender — it appears all the thief wanted was the victim’s purse, investigators said. The most recent incident was on May 2, when a suspect in an entering auto theft was seen on surveillance footage purchasing gas.
In that incident, during the daytime hours, the offender broke into a vehicle at Cornerstone United Methodist Church on Ga. Highway 154 near Highway 34 at Thomas Crossroads and then used the victim’s financial transaction card to purchase gas at the I-85 Exit 56 Shell gas station.
Coweta Sheriff’s Office officials are urging the public to be on the lookout in the parking lots of similar establishments.
It is possible the person or persons responsible for doing these crimes is or are local residents. Coweta investigators are hoping someone may recognize the man or the Chrysler automobile.
Anyone with information about these incidents should contact the Criminal Investigations Division at the Coweta Sheriff’s Office at 678-423-6711.