UNION COUNTY, N.C. - Union County authorities arrested seven men and are looking for two more suspected in dozens of car break-ins in the county's north and west sides.
Deputies said the suspects are facing more than 340 criminal counts in the wave of thefts, which netted an estimated $35,000 in stolen property and stretches back to late summer.
"They were two significant groups of incidents within Union County," said Chief Deputy Ben Bailey.
Investigators said the nine suspects were divided between two separate crews that don't appear to be connected but were similar, targeting residents during the same time frame.
On the county's west side, Union County sheriff's detectives and Stallings police said they have tied Tyler Milner, John Bocek, Trenton Jones, Zohaib Khan and Daniel Floto to more than 30 burglaries.
Authorities said the suspects would break into cars and steal laptops, cellphones, purses and even guns.
Investigators said they suspect the men in two different home break-ins as well with one reported in the Weddington neighborhood, Skyecroft.
"They would take whatever they could within about 10-15 seconds, leave and go to the next house, next car," said Stallings Police Chief Minor Plyler.
Stallings investigators and Union County deputies worked together to track the suspects down, as detectives on the north side began receiving reports of a rash of thefts in Unionville, Fairview and Marshville.
That's when a crime analyst, a new position just hired within the Union County Sheriff's Office within the past fiscal year, began to notice a pattern. The analyst correlated the crimes by location, date and time of occurrence.
"As a result she was able to issue a prediction of where these thieves may strike next," said Bailey.
This week, UCSO detectives arrested four more suspects in the "North Crew" including Timothy Johnson, Larry Nail, Robert Morrow III and Joshua Stewart, who they said they have positively identified in 44 separate incidents. More charges could be pending.
The arrests were welcome news for the dozens of victims including Indian Trail resident Veronica Trotto, whose car was broken into Sunday.
"That's scary, but I'm glad that they're caught and behind bars. Thank God!" Trotto said.