A man is behind bars in Beaufort County after a vehicle break-in on Hilton Head Island, Wednesday morning.
Beaufort County sheriff's deputies responded to Sand Dollar Road around 9:30 a.m. after a report of cash stolen from an unlocked vehicle. Deputies say the victim reported that he parked his vehicle in a driveway at a residence and went back to the beach to check out the surf. When he returned to it a short time later, he told investigators he saw a man loitering near the driveway. The victim checked to make sure his possessions were still there, and that's when he realized he was missing about $33. He called officials and gave them a description of the suspect, who by that time had walked off.
As deputies were responding, employees with the Town of Hilton Head were contacted to access the Folly Field Road beach parking lot cameras, located across the street from Sand Dollar Road. Employees accessed the cameras and reported that they saw a man matching the description of the suspect. Town employees also reported that the cameras caught the suspect pulling on the door handles of several vehicles as he walked through the beach parking lot. When deputies got there, he was no longer in the Folly Field Road beach parking lot and they were not able to locate him immediately.
Deputies received still images of the suspect from the video footage. About one hour later, they spotted him walking through the parking lot of Northridge Plaza, which is located within a few miles of Folly Field Road. They detained him and identified him as 52-year-old James Leroy Smith of Furman, SC. Smith admitted to officials that he entered the victim's unlocked vehicle and stole cash. While Smith was being detained, the victim from the Sand Dollar Road incident positively identified him and he was placed under arrest for breaking into a motor vehicle. Deputies found $34 in Smith's pockets.
Officials transported Smith to the Beaufort County Detention Center and incarcerated him without incident. Smith has not been charged with the attempted break-ins captured on video at the Folly Field Road beach parking lot, as the owners of those vehicles have not yet been identified.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is reminding residents and guests to lock their vehicles and secure any valuables in the trunk. Opportunistic thieves will most often pass a vehicle that is locked in favor of one that is not.
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