Little Rock police arrest 10 accused in rash of vehicle break-ins across city

FILE — A Little Rock Police Department vehicle is shown in this Jan. 26, 2021 file photo.

Little Rock police early Tuesday arrested 10 people thought to be involved in a string of vehicle break-ins across the city, the latest development in a rash of thefts this year that police say have been committed by criminals who have become bolder and more professional in their methods.

The 10 people arrested are thought by police to be behind many of the recent break-ins as well as other crimes, and police expect to make more arrests soon, a police news release stated Tuesday afternoon.

The release did not identify any of the people arrested, although the Pulaski County jail's online inmate roster listed three men -- Kaleem May, 23, Michael Montgomery, 18, and Darquan Doolittle, 18 -- who were arrested Tuesday and who each faced 28 vehicle breaking or entering charges, as well as three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and engaging in criminal gang activities.

None of the three had a bond amount listed.

Police leaders intend to get more patrols on the streets in the last weeks of the year to deter break-ins and also use the technology of the department's Real-Time Crime Center to identify and arrest thieves, the release states.

In the last seven days, police recorded 63 separate auto breaking or entering incidents, the release states. Some of these involved multiple vehicles at one location, so the actual number of vehicles involved was likely much higher.

"If an apartment complex said they've been robbed, we write one incident report. One report may cover multiple vehicles broken into," police spokesman Mark Edwards said Tuesday afternoon. "If you have 10 break-ins in your parking lot, we're going to cover that all in one incident report."

Edwards said he was not sure exactly how many cars were broken into during the past seven days.

He also said he could not yet provide more information about specific locations that had an increase of vehicle break-ins. Recently, auto break-ins had been happening across all the department's patrol divisions, Edwards said.

Residents at the Bowman Pointe and the Pointe at Brodie Creek apartments on Bowman Road told KATV that thieves had struck dozens of vehicles overnight Saturday and returned overnight Sunday, sometimes breaking windows in vehicles that had already been hit.

Residents in the Hillcrest and Prospect Terrace area told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that thieves had also struck 50 or more vehicles near there over the weekend, smashing windows or opening doors left unlocked.

Vehicle break-ins aren't new to the city, but police officials have suggested that the tactics and character of the perpetrators have changed in recent years.

At an Oct. 19 community meeting, Maj. Zach Farley described the groups that have formed to commit these overnight break-ins. At the time, Farley was the head of the department's Northwest Patrol Division, although he retired last week.

Some of the thieves have started to use specialized tools to break the glass on vehicles, most likely hoping to make less noise, Farley said. They usually aren't wasting their time on vehicles that appear to be empty, either, he said.

"They know what they're doing," Farley said. "Some of them are after specific things. If you have guns, please take them out of your car."

Police leaders have pleaded with residents for more than a year not to store firearms in their vehicles where thieves can smash windows and grab them.

At the same Oct. 19 meeting, Chief Heath Helton estimated that six guns a week are stolen in vehicle break-ins.

Maj. Eric Hinsley, who is over the department's 12th Street/Downtown Patrol Division, identified the same problem in an Oct. 12 community meeting.

"People [are] doing this like [it's] their job," Hinsley said.

Although he didn't name the person, Hinsley talked about to a man arrested Oct. 11 who was out on bond after being charged in other vehicle break-ins. The judge set his bond at $75,000, but the person paid it and was caught on camera breaking into vehicles again the next day.

Farley, too, mentioned suspects in vehicle break-ins being able to pay bonds that were very high, as property crimes go.

Identifying suspects can be difficult, Farley said at that community meeting. License plate readers and cameras linked to the department's Real-Time Crime Center helped them nab several suspects, including one who faced 30 to 40 charges related to vehicle break-ins, he said.

"We had to piece together a lot of things from a lot of different places to prove it was him," Farley said.

Farley did not identify any of the people arrested at the time and did not respond to a message left with him requesting details following the community meeting.

Officers in both the Northwest and 12th Street patrol divisions had been running additional patrols, including using plain-clothes officers, in the early morning hours to try and catch thieves in the act, the two division leaders said.

Maj. Cristina Plummer, in the department's Southwest Patrol Division, did not specifically mention an increase in vehicle break-ins during her Oct. 26 community meeting.