JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman in a wheelchair in East Arlington said she can't get around as easily anymore since her mother's SUV with her wheelchair lift on it was stolen.
The theft happened just after midnight Monday on Forest Lake Circle East, near Kernan Boulevard North.
There have been at least seven car break-ins in that area since the beginning of the year, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's crime-mapping tool.
Residents said items were taken from at least three cars in the area early Monday, when the SUV with a wheelchair lift was stolen.
Erica Spofford said she used to be able to get around and go places just fine. Her wheelchair lift on her mother's SUV gave her the opportunity to get out of her home.
"You feel like, 'How can someone do this to me? I didn't do anything wrong,'" Spofford said. "It's hurtful that someone can just take something that doesn't belong to them."
Spofford said she's been in a wheelchair for more than two years after being diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which affects her lungs and is incurable.
"I posted it on Facebook and all the comments were, 'How can someone take that? How can someone knowingly be able to see the lift and say, 'Oh, well, this car is available. Let me steal it'?" Spofford said.
Since her wheelchair lift was stolen, she has had to ride in a car and then wait for a wheelchair to become available at the mall or the grocery store.
Her mom, Joy Spofford, said without her SUV, she can't work. She said thousands of dollars of medical equipment for her job was inside her SUV when it was stolen.
"I was upset yesterday, very much, and just kind of at a real sense of loss," Joy Spofford said.
As for the other car break-ins in the area, News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said, "Remember, crimes like this are crimes of opportunity. So if this door is locked, they'll just go to another car down the street and just keep going until they find a car door that's unlocked."
Smith said never leave items like cellphones, laptops, GPSs and garage door openers in plain sight.
"Because what they can do then is take the garage door opener, remember the address, come back later when you may not be home during the day," Smith said.
He said to assist police when they're trying to find stolen items, people should consider engraving their driver's license numbers on things like their laptops or even other things in their car, like the engine block.
Meanwhile, the Spoffords are just hoping they can get their car with the wheelchair lift back so Erica Spofford can have her freedom again.
She said people around there are thinking about starting a neighborhood watch.
"It could happen to any neighborhood," she said. "It's nerve-racking."
The Spoffords said they're not concerned with prosecuting anyone for this crime. They just really want that wheelchair lift back. The cost of another lift would be about $6,000 to $7,000.
They're hoping anyone who knows anything will call police.
They're really not asking for help buying another lift. If, however, anyone wants to help, they can email News4Jax's Marques White at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll put them in contact with the family.
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