YORK, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A summer/ong initiative led to more than 50 arrests tied to car thefts and break-ins across York County.
“We made 51 arrests with 94 arrest warrants served, and we still have 27 pending arrests to make,” said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson, speaking Thursday morning about the results of Operation Diamondback.
The investigations ran from incidents May 15 through the end of August. There were reportedly 74 stolen cars recovered, totaling about $1.2 million in value and leading to 37 arrests.
Tolson says they also seized about $13,000 in cash and 18 stolen guns.
“We certainly encourage and don’t discourage folks from having weapons in their vehicle,” Tolson said. “But don’t leave it in your vehicle, please. We have a very high number of firearms that are stolen, and subsequently used in crimes from weapons that are stolen from vehicles.”
Other York County law enforcement agencies, along with the S.C. Highway Patrol, provided assistance.
Of the stolen vehicles identified during the operation, half were from outside of York County’s jurisdiction.
“Twenty-four percent of your breaking-and-entering autos have their windows broken off, also known as a smash-and-grab,” the sheriff said. “But only 7 percent of vehicles that were parked at residences had their windows broken. So, when you do the math, if you lock your vehicle at night, you have a 93 percent chance of the criminal going somewhere else to somebody else’s vehicle.”
|Timeframe||Vehicle Thefts||Vehicle Break-ins|
|May 15-Aug. 31, 2023||54||135|
|May 15-Aug. 31, 2022||57||154|
|Jan. 1-Aug. 31, 2022||119||396|
|Jan. 1-Aug. 31, 2023||128||292|
Authorities say they wanted to saturate the four districts in the county to create an “army-like” presence — the majority of the operation was done at the Carowinds Boulevard exit near the state line.
“Unfortunately, there’s a high crime area, especially in the summertime,” Tolson explained. “And when you think about South Carolina, that’s the first exit when you come in from North Carolina. And we wanted to send the message that we’re not going to stand for criminal activity.”
Despite an exploding population in the county, officials say they’ve seen an 8 percent decrease in stolen vehicle cases over the last year. During the same time frame a year ago, there were 57 such incidents. And there’s been an almost 30 percent decrease in breaking-and-entering cases; 154 were reported in May 15-Aug. 31, 2022.
|Percentage of Cases in District 4||Vehicle Thefts||Vehicle Break-ins|
|Jan. 1-Aug. 31, 2022||35.7%||57.5%|
|Jan. 1-Aug. 31, 2023||39.2%||62.1%|
Operation Diamondback didn’t just return stolen cars to their owners. Officials also snagged marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin. Investigators bagged 18 fentanyl pills along with 3 grams of fentanyl powder. Driving under the influence arrests were made, and York County’s mounted patrol arrested a fugitive during the span.
“One quote that I remember seeing during one of our high-profile Facebook Live videos was a comment was made that ‘York County ain’t messed around, y’all,’” Tolson said. “And that’s the message that we want to send to the criminal.”