Children safe after suspected thief jumps into minivan, quickly leaves
Posted February 9, 2012
Southern Pines, N.C. — A man hopped into a minivan parked outside a Southern Pines day care early Tuesday but ran off without taking anything, leaving two children unharmed in the back seat, police said Thursday.
Jazzma Thomas said she was dropping her boyfriend's toddler at Humpty Dumpty Nursery on Richards Street shortly after 6 a.m. and parked her Dodge Caravan outside. His other two children, ages 4 and 2, were strapped in car seats in back, she said, but she left them there, figuring she wouldn't be gone for more than a minute.
"Don't allow yourself to be lulled to believing that anything cannot happen in the blink of an eye," said Lt. Rodney Hardy of the Southern Pines Police Department.
As she went inside, a man came out of the shadows and jumped into the vehicle, Hardy said, noting the day care's security camera captured the incident on tape.
"He gets in through the driver's door, goes straight to the console of the car, then (jumps) out in less than 30 seconds," Hardy said.
Police said he was likely looking for a purse or something he could grab easily from the minivan. Finding nothing, he ran off into the darkness.
"Unfortunately it's a crime of opportunity," Hardy said.
Thomas said she turned off the minivan and thought she had locked it with her remote button. When she returned, the 4-year-old told her a man had gotten into the van and was looking for something on the floor, she said.
The child was scared, and she said she was as well.
Police alerted the Moore County Department of Social Services, as required by law in a case involving children. It was unclear Thursday whether Thomas could face a child endangerment charge.
"The issue is, don't leave children unattended and lock your doors, even if you're gone for a very short period of time," Hardy said.
A sign posted inside Humpty Dumpty Nursery says, “When dropping your kids off, or picking them up, please make sure your car is turned off and doors are locked.”
Day care owner David Miller said he takes every possible precaution to protect children.
"I can’t control a person walking up the street," Miller said. “I can’t control what parents do when they pull up."
Thomas, 22, said she has learned her lesson and will never leave the children alone in a car again.