Four cars targeted in local burglaries

Josue Vega locks the car door before heading into the church. Sunday, January 30, 2022.(Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
Josue Vega locks the car door before heading into the church. Sunday, January 30, 2022.(Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

In the early morning hours of  January 19, four cars were burglarized in the Collegedale area.

 According to Lieutenant Jamie Heath of the Collegedale Police Department (CPD), two of the cars were located at Winding Creek Apartments, off-campus student housing owned by Southern. The other two vehicles were at The Village at Apison Pike, an apartment complex not associated with the university.

“There are three [known] individuals at this point that were involved in the burglaries on January the 19th,” said Heath, who works in the CPD’s special investigations department.

 Three handguns were stolen as well as a backpack, according to Heath. Two of the handguns were taken from the cars at The Village at Apison Pike and one from a vehicle at Winding Creek Apartments, he said, and all four vehicles were unlocked at the time of the burglaries.

According to a January 26 update from the CPD, the Chattanooga Police Department arrested 18-year-old Corey Stallings for possession of a stolen vehicle and one of the handguns stolen from the Collegedale car burglaries. The update stated that Stallings had concealed the handgun in his waistband and pulled it out while being pursued by the police. Before taking him into custody, police were able to safely disarm Stallings, the update reported.

“Two other juveniles were arrested with Stallings,” the update stated. “The case remains an active investigation at this time.”

According to Shawn Haas, associate director of Campus Safety, this is not the first time cars have been burglarized at Winding Creek Apartments. Cars have been opened and searched before without incurring thefts, said Haas.

“We’ve worked with Winding Creek a little bit over this year and last trying to [emphasize] the importance of locking your car and not keeping anything valuable in there – definitely not keeping anything valuable in sight,” Haas said. “We would not want to tempt anyone to try to break a window or something if they saw something very valuable.”

The university has discussed improvements to maximize safety at Winding Creek Apartments, according to Haas. Adding additional lighting and cameras to help deter and possibly solve cases are two of the options being considered. In the meantime, Haas said Campus Safety and the Collegedale Police Department are spending more time patrolling that area.

“We have a heavier patrol presence over there,” he said. “Obviously, we have a whole campus to patrol, but we tell the guys, ‘Hey, go over there more; spend a little more time over there. In the middle of the night, maybe sit there for a little bit while trying not to neglect the rest of the campus.’ That seems to be an area in the middle of night where we’re needed a little more.” 

Charlene Arnold, junior public relations major, was one of the victims of the burglaries. Arnold said she has lived at Winding Creek Apartments with her husband and children since June. Her husband was the first to discover that the vehicle had been rummaged through, according to Arnold. He noticed papers and items from the dashboard compartment scattered throughout the vehicle. However, Arnold said, nothing had been stolen.

“When it first happened, it kind of put me in a state of shock because it made me doubt myself, ‘Oh God, did I leave my purse and my wallet in there the one night it happened?’” Arnold said. 

Haas encourages individuals to keep their vehicle doors locked and warns against leaving anything valuable inside. 

“If [the burglars] are continuing to find unlocked cars and continuing to find valuables in the cars over there, they’re more likely to return to that area,” Haas said. “So, we’re hoping them not finding stuff will also be a deterrent.”

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