Don’t know what’s happening in the Carolinas, but the tidewater region must be dealing with some hardcore coronavirus lockdown boredom. Three months ago, police in Columbia, South Carolina, warned residents of a new Snapchat challenge among kids to take as many selfies in stolen cars as possible. Another group of kids around Winston-Salem, North Carolina, might have taken that as a seed, skipping the selfies but keeping the car theft. A story in the Charlotte Observer explained that starting March 17, 19 kids from the ages of 9 to 16 broke into 13 dealerships 20 times — hitting some stores more than once — to steal 46 cars worth $1.1 million. The crew didn’t discriminate, swiping new cars and cars in for service that included at least eight makes: Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo.
As The Drive brilliantly put it, “Peter Pan meets Grand Theft Auto” appears to have started among a smaller number among the 19, some of them already known to authorities as repeat offenders. A lieutenant with the Winston-Salem Police Department told the Winston-Salem Journal the kids were going for joy rides probably because of quarantine boredom. A department captain elaborated with, “Their success in the early stages certainly exacerbated the problem. These other kids saw them with a new car, and they shared how they acquired it.”
Detectives have recovered 40 of the 46 cars, and know who allegedly stole them, but the detectives can’t arrest the suspects. Since the kids are minors, the police need custody orders from the Forsyth County Department of Juvenile Justice, where the kids would be held. The police department release said, “Detectives have sought, and thus far have been denied, secure custody orders,” without saying why. The Journal said the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is “trying to decrease the number of youth in detention during the coronavirus pandemic by utilizing electronic monitoring instead.”
The only arrest so far is a 19-year-old who wound up with one of the cars and was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle. Taken into custody on March 25, he sits in the Forsyth County Detention Center. In the meantime, detectives say the investigation is ongoing, but with the gang of 19 still free, all the police captain could add was, “I am hoping that we get this investigation progressed to the point we can get this stopped.”