ALCOA (WATE) – Investigators believe new surveillance pictures could help them crack a string of car break-ins that stretch back two years.
They have possibly linked several cases in Knox, Blount, and Roane Counties.
Investigators believe the criminals go up and down the I-40 and I-75 corridor targeting cars, many of them parked at greenways.
Investigators say the criminals have a signature trick. They use the identities of victims in one county to rip off victims in another county.
"They broke this window, I mean it was shattered all over the parking lot and in the car. Her purse was inside," said Leroy Huff, showing us his car. He says his wife was at the park with their great grandson that day. Among other things her purse had her ID, social security card, and checkbook. It was all the criminals needed.
"I know of 10 checks they wrote and cashed at three different banks, and that was between $15,000 and $20,000. That's a lot of money for me," Huff explained.
"What we have is a group of people traveling between different jurisdictions and targeting cars of citizens that are parking in these greenway areas," said Det. Kris Sanders with the Alcoa Police Department.
Police in Alcoa believe a surveillance photo of one of their female criminals at a bank window could be what cracks Huff's case wide open.
"They broke into different vehicles, they may take the checkbook and ID out of vehicle A and an ID out of vehicle B. What they do is they go to the person's from vehicle A's bank, make a check out from the person in vehicle B, and cash the check at the drive thru," Det. Sanders explained.
That's what happened in Leroy's case. His family now lives in constant fear of identity theft.
"That's the worst part of it. Look at what they can do with her social security number," Leroy said.
Leroy, like several other victims, hopes someone identifies the woman. So police can get some solid leads on this crime ring.
"They ought to get out and work instead of busting someone's car up," Leroy said.
Police say the criminals always use the outer most lane at the bank to keep a low profile, and that there are at least a few women in this group. Again, this story is just another warning to watch what you leave in your car.
If you have any information on the woman police are trying to identify, call Det. Kris Sanders at the Alcoa Police Department at (865)380-4964 or Det. Sgt. Ronnie Pryor with the Maryville Police Department at (865)273-3709.