A Westside car dealership, where 11 cars were stolen in a matter of weeks, is making changes to its security.
Seven cars were taken from the Auto Mac 2 dealership on Cassat Avenue on May 20 and four more were stolen on Tuesday. The dealership said all the vehicles have been recovered and suspects have been arrested, but the management said the challenges are far from over.
Even though the suspects are in custody, Auto Mac 2 took steps this week to prevent future thefts, installing a new security system.
It's a system that assistant manager Kevin Sapp said might have prevented the unpleasant surprise one employee found at the dealership on the morning of May 20.
“When he came in, he noticed there was a big hole right here in the window, cut open,” Sapp said. “When he went inside the business, he noticed all the keys were gone. And then we had seven cars missing.”
The stolen vehicles included cars, trucks and SUVs.
Sapp said a video camera at a business just feet away caught last month's thief in action. Sapp described the video, which is now in the hands of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
“As you see him turn into the business, you see another headlight turn in front of him,” Sapp described. “He jumps out of the car, wipes it down, jumps in another car, and then, I guess, they come back and get some more cars.”
One teenager is charged with burglary and car theft as a result of that break-in, in which cars were driven off one by one, and apparently taken for joyrides.
Sapp said the joyrides came to an end when the teen was found sleeping in one of the stolen cars. Police arrested him and recovered all seven cars taken from the dealership.
Auto Mac 2 thought the worst was over, until someone stole four more cars just weeks later — in nearly identical fashion.
Police arrested another teen and recovered those cars, but dealership owner John Romberg said it's still disappointing and expensive for a small business.
“It's difficult for us to be able to pass this on to the customer, the consumer, because it's unexpected,” Romberg said. “We don't have insurance for it, you know, insurance deductibles and so forth. ... We just don't have insurance for it.“
So far, one of the teens involved is facing felony burglary and grand theft charges.