A group of 19 juveniles, ranging in age from nine to 16, have been accused of stealing nearly 50 cars worth more than $1million from local dealerships over the last two months, according to North Carolina authorities.
Since the suspects began stealing cars on March 17, authorities said at least 20 car heists were pulled off and are believed to be in connection with the minors.
18 of the thefts happened at dealerships in Winston-Salem, while an additional two dealerships were targeted just 15 minutes east in Kernersville.
At least 14 dealerships were made victims in the crime spree.
‘As a result of these crimes, forty-six (46) vehicles were reported as stolen in Winston-Salem,’ said a press release on Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.
The vehicles are reportedly worth around $1,138,718. All but six of the nearly four dozen cars have been recovered.
The stolen vehicles came from at least eight dealerships, including Lexus, Audi, Volvo, Honda, Ford, Subaru, Toyota and Chevrolet.
For the majority of the thefts, the juveniles reportedly swiped keys for new cars or for cars being serviced at the dealerships. Many of the dealerships were hit more than once.
Authorities said they have tried, but failed to secure custody of the juveniles.
The reason why is unclear, but the North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced it was trying to lower the number of minors in detention amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The department said they’ve been utilizing electronic monitoring instead.
‘Detectives have sought, and thus far have been denied, secure custody orders from the Forsyth County Department of Juvenile Justice for the involved juveniles,’ the release said.
However, four of the children have been taken into custody and three more had minor charges that didn’t warrant an arrest,’ WFMY reports.