ATLANTA — Electric scooters are changing the way we get around, but these quick, cheap and fun devices are also involved in a citywide crime wave.
“It’s quiet, and usually there’s not a lot of crime,” said Emily Hardy, who lives in Atlanta’s Ormewood Park neighborhood.
Lately, her neighbors have been using social media to warn one another about a rash of crimes involving teenagers on electric scooters.
“I can’t even keep up with the thread anymore. There’s just so many people complaining about things being stolen from their cars,” said Hardy. “One of the cops investigating the situation said be careful because they think they might be armed.”
Emily and her husband Tom are two of the lucky ones who haven’t fallen victim. But the married couple is worried they may be next. They shared surveillance images showing the teens who they believe are behind this recent crime wave.
In October, they called 911 after they caught the suspected thieves attempting to steal from a landscaper’s truck.
“It was the middle of the school day, and they all had their hoodies up and some masks on, and they were all riding really quickly down the middle of the street. No one was talking, and they were kind of cashing people’s cars,” said Emily Hardy.
“Our neighbor just around the corner came running up to me frantically, ‘Hey, some kids, I think they were kids on a scooter just broke into my car and stole my purse,’” said Tom Hardy.
That neighbor who asked us not to identify her said the smash and grab incident has left her and her mother shaken. “Everything was gone, checkbook stolen, IDs. And it’s just been really hard for her, and we were afraid she would never come to visit us in town again,” she said.
But there are also reports of violent crimes involving e-scooters. Atlanta Police released dashcam video of a man riding on an e-scooter who was considered a suspect in a shooting at Pine and Courtland Streets in July.
Police also released video of a bump and rob that shows a guy on a scooter bump into the back of a car. As soon as the driver gets out of the car to check on him, another guy walks over and takes off in the stolen car. Investigators say it happened at least seven times over the summer.
“I was a young person who made some bad decisions,” said Kwame Johnson, the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Metro Atlanta. He was once a teen caught up in crime. “And as a result of that, I found myself incarcerated at a young age,” said Johnson.
Today, Johnson is making it his mission to empower the lives of children, some of whom he said are in very desperate situations and lack opportunities. “We got to change that so that they have jobs. They have access to the right education, that they have the right programs. They have the right resources to meet these basic needs I’m talking about, and I guarantee you, if they had those things, they would not be taking scooters and committing crimes,” said Johnson.
Atlanta Police say there are three things you can do to protect yourself. One, don’t leave valuables in your car. Two, never leave the keys in your car or leave your car running. Three, pay attention to your surroundings and report any suspicious activity by calling 911.
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