A spike in the number of auto burglaries led to a successful “bait” vehicle operation in Lakeland last week.
Lt. David Ballard of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that Lakeland, Bartlett, Memphis and Shelby County have seen an uptick in the number of auto burglaries recently. At a weekly intel meeting between police and sheriff’s officers, they decided to take an aggressive step.
The SCSO ALERT unit placed tempting bait in a Chevrolet Silverado double-cab pickup and parked it at one of the biggest hot spots: Cracker Barrel at 9649 E Davies Plantation Road in Lakeland. The bait was a black computer bag containing an HP EliteBook and HP docking station ($1,000).
Then they waited and watched. The truck sat untouched for a couple of days until around 3:40 p.m. on Nov. 6.
Surveillance officers saw a silver Honda Accord that matched a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) report from Memphis. Two males got out, broke the truck’s rear window ($500) and snatched the bait.
According to affidavits, officers followed the vehicle, which pulled into multiple hotel parking lots to case vehicles. When detectives tried a traffic stop near the intersection of Chelsea Avenue and Kney Street, the driver intentionally rammed one officer’s vehicle head-on and fled.
Detectives followed the duo to Woodglen Village, where they bailed from the vehicle and ran between apartment buildings. Ballard saw them enter an apartment, and detectives arrested them there without incident. The Accord was towed to the SCSO seizure lot, and the stolen laptop and suitcase were recovered.
Earle Farrell, public information officer for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), listed the suspects as Jamil D. Spencer, 34, and Antonio D. Bateman Jr., 20, both of Memphis.
Spencer, who drove the Accord, was charged with aggravated assault (a C felony); reckless driving and driving with a revoked license, both Misdemeanor B offenses; and intentionally evading arrest in an auto (an E felony). His bond was set at $100,000 on Nov. 8. He was also charged with burglary of a motor vehicle (an E felony); theft of property of $1,000 or less, Misdemeanor A; and vandalism of $1,000 or less, Misdemeanor A.
Bateman was charged with aggravated assault (a C felony) and intentionally evading arrest in an auto (an E felony). His bond was set at $75,000. He was also charged with burglary of a motor vehicle (an E felony); theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, Misdemeanor A; and vandalism of $1,000 or less, Misdemeanor A.
Bateman was a known suspect from a 2015 incident when he reportedly backed into a SCSO patrol car and fled the scene. Ironically, he was due in court on that older offense the day after this latest arrest, Ballard said.
Officers recovered two pistols, electronics, checkbooks and other items that they are still trying to match with reports of stolen goods. It’s also believed that the two suspects may be part of a bigger theft ring.
Operations like this will be ramped up in the future, Ballard said.
He also gave advice for property owners in preventing crime. “If you don’t want property stolen, take it out of the car. They’ll target a day care or a spa or a workout facility where they know you’ll be inside for more than 30 minutes.”
Putting purses and other valuables in a car’s trunk isn’t a sure safety measure, either. Crooks who see valuables being stowed know just where to look for them. Ballard advised, “Take it with you or leave it at home.”