Suspects in car burglary ring caught in the act

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - People who live on Palmisano in Chalmette say they became worried when several vehicles were broken into last week.

"Over the past week in the Chalmette area we received some calls of auto burglaries and a few auto thefts, all concentrated around the Palmisano area," says Sheriff Jimmy Pohlman.

The thieves didn't just strike once. Sheriff Pohlman say they came back three times.

"Early Sunday, deputies responded to a suspicious vehicle call in the area. They arrived within minutes. They discovered an individual inside a vehicle committing a burglary," says Sheriff Pohlman.

Deputies arrested 21-year-old Imani Smith and booked him with two counts of auto theft and 17 counts auto burglary.

Investigators remained in the area and later found four more suspects hiding under a shed nearby.

Sheriff Pohlman says all of the suspects were part of a burglary ring from New Orleans. Some, he says, have extensive criminal records.

"When we apprehended the four suspects out of the shed, we recovered three weapons. So out of the four suspects, three of them were armed," says  Pohlman.

"Anyone could have been hurt. You think people are just breaking in cars - which is bad enough - but to think they're carrying guns with them to try to hurt somebody that might get in the way. It's pretty scary," says a resident who did not want to be identified.

Several items were taken from the vehicles in the neighborhood, including three guns.

Sheriff Polhman says all of the vehicles that were burglarized were left unlocked.

He says guns are almost always the thieves' primary target.

"Particularly if you have firearms in your car, if you want to let them steal your laptops, GPS or purses, that's one thing. If you leave a gun or in some cases multiple guns, all you're doing is  allowing these criminals to continue their dangerous pattern," says Polhman.

The message, he says, is to always lock your vehicle.