Incident at Charlotte Premium Outlets highlights rising number of auto thefts

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is continuing its search for a man accused of trying to steal another man’s car, fire a gun, and then pistol-whip him at the Charlotte Premium Outlets.

Channel 9 brought you the story as breaking news on Friday night, but the incident covers a much bigger issue that is plaguing the Queen City: auto theft.

While numbers are on the rise for stolen cars, many people don’t think about it until they become victims themselves. Channel 9 veteran crime reporter Glenn Counts was able to catch up with other shoppers who said Friday night’s incident was a wake-up call.

“Oh man, it’s crazy; it seems like that happens a lot here in Charlotte,” James McGriff, a shopper, said.

The number of auto thefts is rising across the city, but CMPD says the incident at the premium outlets was the first theft in the past year.

Officers say a fight broke out after a shopper caught a man in his car trying to take it. During the fight, the suspect fired a shot that he luckily missed. McGriff told Counts that he completely understands the victim’s reaction in this situation.

“Your first instinct is, I mean, that’s your possession, so you have to protect it. I mean, there is no telling how hard that man worked for his car,” McGriff said.

Current Charlotte crime statistics show a large increase in stolen cars. In 2022, there were 2,594 auto thefts; this year, there have been 5,824. A large chunk of the higher number is due to the Kia-Hyundai challenge, which caused car thefts to jump by 843%.

A shopper, who didn’t want to show her face on camera, told Counts she believes anything can happen. While she has a concealed carry license, she says if she were in the same position, she’d most likely call the police and not reach for her gun.

“I would not have done that in that situation, simply because you don’t know what the other person has; if I’m threatened, then I’ll do what I have to do, but in that particular situation, I probably would have just called the cops.”

Police advise local drivers to get a steering wheel lock and park in a well-lit area.

(WATCH BELOW: Person pistol-whipped in parking lot of Charlotte Premium Outlets)

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