FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Auto theft is up more than 30-percent in northwest Fresno since last year. Fresno police told us about this troubling trend just a few months ago. But just this week some high school students at Northwest Church became one of those statistics.
The high school youth group at Northwest Church meets every Tuesday night. Many of the youth drive their own cars to church. Tuesday night several of those teen drivers came out of church to find their car windows smashed and their personal belongings gone. The high school youth group had just gotten underway when outside in the parking lot thieves began breaking into car after car after car.
The noise inside the youth building was so loud no one heard a thing except the janitor who ran to tell the youth leaders a car alarm was going off. High school Pastor Jared Carl ran outside to check things out. "At that point it was 'a car' until we looked and it was, two, then it was three, then it was four, then it was five, and then it was six, and when we finally stopped walking around it ended up being six cars."
Eighteen-year-old Matt Von Tersch discovered his car was one of the six that had been targeted. "I went around and saw glass on the floor first of all, and it was shattered and there's glass on the floor of my car and everything like that."
Von Tersch's backpack was gone along with all of his homework plus a year's worth of assignments for English class. "My graphing calculator is like $80, but besides that, I had a school text book which is about $300."
Von Tersch believes he was one of the lucky ones. Others had laptops stolen and wallets.
It's not the first time thieves have hit this area. Von Tersch's girlfriend Meagan Robinson had her car broken into three months ago. "I actually ran into just grab something and was gonna head out and go somewhere else and I just didn't make it out in time."
Meagan's window was shattered and her backpack was gone.
Northwest plans to have a security guard on duty every time there are activities at the church. "You would assume your stuff would be safe in the church parking lot, but I guess it's just one of those things where you can never assume things these days," said Carl.
The cars targeted all had items sitting out on the seat in plain view. A tough and expensive lesson for these teens.
So far there are no leads in the break-ins.