Police have identified the suspects - including a nine-year-old - but they can't arrest them.
In less than two months, a group of car thieves has stolen nearly 50 cars from several dealerships in North Carolina. According to police, 46 cars were stolen since March 17 worth a total of $1.1 million in 20 separate heists across 13 dealers representing Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo.
While it sounds like a real-life version of Gone in 60 Seconds (coincidentally, a similar number of cars were stolen in the movie including the elusive 'Eleanor' Ford Mustang, but Nicholas Cage's character pulled it off in just one night), these weren't professional car thieves - they were a group of kids and teenagers. Most of them weren't even old enough to legally drive.
All 19 suspects have been identified by police, but the problem is that the majority of them can't be arrested. Some of the youngest thieves were only nine years old, while the oldest was 16.
40 of the stolen cars have been recovered, one of which was found to be in the possession of a 19-year-old who was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. They are currently being held at the Forsyth County Detention Center, according to The Charlotte Observer. At least there were no accidents or injuries, as juvenile car thefts often end in disaster due to their lack of driving experience.
Detectives have tried to secure custody orders from the Forsyth County Department of Juvenile Justice for the juvenile suspects but have been denied. It isn't clear why the request was denied, but one possible explanation is that the N.C. Department of Public Safety is trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus at youth detention centers by using electronic monitoring instead of imprisonment.
"Detectives are continuing their efforts to investigate these crimes and to prevent future thefts," the Winston Salem Forsyth County police said in a statement. "Authorities are working with local dealerships to better secure their facilities and to initiate steps to prevent thieves from obtaining vehicles keys; if they succeed in gaining entry into the dealership."