3 chargedin theftsfrom carsat churches

Police on Sunday arrested three men on charges of larceny from vehicles parked at a church, in a continuing investigation of car break-ins that have plagued churchgoers for at least a month.

South Division Investigator Gerry Esposito noticed a trend of breaking and entering and larceny from cars in church parking lots during service hours. Multiple reports have been filed by people who lost valuables.

“Car break-ins happen every day,” said Capt. Allan Rutledge of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “Not just at churches but in general. … In this particular case, we just noticed a trend of them happening at churches. … This trend just happened to be noticed in south Charlotte.”

Police organized roving surveillance operations visiting a number of churches Sunday.

At Carmel Presbyterian on Carmel Road, police spotted a car that had been reported earlier as a suspicious vehicle. They stopped the car at a traffic stop near the church, police said, and arrested Kristopher Belis, Vaughn Bartlette and Anthony Walls, all 19.

Police said property found in the vehicle later was identified as property taken earlier Sunday from vehicles parked at Little Church on the Lane, on Moravian Lane in Myers Park, and from four other church parking lots.

The three suspects each face five counts of charges of breaking and entering and five counts of larceny from auto, Rutledge said.

Rutledge warns residents not to leave anything of value visible or readily accessible in their vehicles.