SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Earlier this year, thieves stole nearly 15 cars from various dealerships across the Savannah area. So far, police recovered a dozen but the theft ring doesn't stop there.
The vehicles are being used to commit other crimes. It's a growing problem that the police chief wants to put an end to.
Michael Weathers had left his vehicle at JC Lewis Ford to get his window replaced, but an hour before he was supposed to pick up his car, he got a call that his car had been stolen.
"He called me a little before that and asked me if I picked up the truck," said Weathers. "I said no, I did not. Someone had gone inside the dealership during business hours, had taken the truck and drove off with it."
It still bewilders Weathers that someone could steal his vehicle during broad daylight.
"Disbelief. I have never had a problem there before," said Weathers. "They caught it on video. They must have had problems on video. I don't understand how it happened during business hours."
It is a problem police have warned car dealerships about for years. Many have since beefed up security.
"We are taking extra precautions to make sure keys are not laying around where they shouldn't be and that applies to mechanic bay, because anyone can pretend they are a mechanic and try and take a car from the bay," said David McCalla, J.C. Lewis Ford. "We are making sure these measures are taken to make sure no one can take any key and use it for a crime in the Savannah area."
That's just what someone did with Weathers' truck.
"The description that fit my truck was used in a drive by shooting the next day and three months later," said Weathers. "They found it and it had been burned."
Police are actively investigating at least a dozen dealership auto thefts that have occurred over the past year.
"They will steal seven or eight cars with the anticipation that they figure we are going to recover some of them very shortly. They use these vehicles to get involved in thefts, burglaries, and any kind of criminal activity where transportation is required," said Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett.
Chief Lovett says criminals are trying to reduce their chances the crimes they commit will be traced back to them by using a stolen car, but police are mapping out the connections, trying to put a halt to this growing trend.
Many of the dealerships that WTOC spoke to would not go on camera, but say they have increased their security measures.