Police arrested a Savannah man Thursday and are looking for more suspects in a series of vehicle break-ins in Bryan, Liberty and Effingham counties.
Terrence Lee Warner, 23, of Savannah was arrested in Richmond Hill early Thursday morning after an RHPD officer reportedly found him hiding in bushes outside a home on Brisbane Court.
The officer had followed Warner onto Brisbane Court after seeing him driving suspiciously on Highway 144, according to the report. Warner was driving a Land Rover that turned out to be one of two cars reported stolen in Bryan County this week.
In addition, five cars were stolen from the Rushing Street Station and Richmond Place subdivisions in Richmond Hill, according to RHPD Sgt. Doug Sahlberg. All but one of those five vehicles have been recovered, he said.
The car break-ins in Bryan County are in addition to 40 reported in the Lake George community in Liberty County and about 20 in Effingham County. Investigators believe a small group of suspects are behind the thefts targeting unlocked vehicles in neighborhoods.
“We beefed up extra patrols with undercover cars and detectives,” Sahlberg said.
All five of the cars stolen in Richmond Hill were left unlocked with the keys inside or nearby, according to investigators. Cash, credit cards, guns and electronics have been stolen from other unlocked cars, Sahlberg said.
“It is a crime of opportunity,” he said. “They’ll come into a neighborhood and they’ll go car-to-car and take whatever they can.”
In one instance in Richmond Hill, Sahlberg said, a family had a car safely stored in their garage. However, a spare set of keys to that car and the garage door opener were inside an unlocked car in their driveway, giving the thieves all they needed to steal the car from the garage.
“Don’t become a victim. Keep your property secure,” Sahlberg said. “If your car is locked, they’ll go onto the next one.”
Warner was charged with theft by taking, theft by receiving stolen property, financial transaction card theft and possession of tools for the commission of a crime. All are felonies.
A Richmond Hill Police officer reported seeing the Land Rover cross over the fog line on Highway 144. Also, the police report states, the man’s erratic driving indicated he wasn’t familiar with the area, even though a check of the tag showed the SUV was registered to a Richmond Hill resident.
The Land Rover turned onto Brisbane Court and into a driveway, and the officer reportedly found Warner in bushes outside the home. Warner told the officers he was looking in the bushes after dropping his phone, but his cell phone was found inside the Land Rover, according to the report.
Warner also said he was at the house to visit a friend, but the people who live there told investigators they were not expecting anyone. Warner also reportedly told police he had bought the Land Rover from someone at a convenience store for $50.
The owner of the stolen Land Rover reported he also was missing two credit cards and $160 in cash. Warner was found with two credit cards and a “large amount of cash,” according to the police report.
The stolen vehicles recovered by police are being processed for fingerprints and other evidence, Sahlberg said. Investigators hope their findings lead them to the other suspects involved in the thefts.
“We’ve got physical evidence,” he said. “We just have to piece it all together.”