Chattanooga auto theft suspect steals car, kidnaps child

Kids and Car Safety Director says kids involved in auto thefts happens far more than many realize

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Chattanooga police responded to an auto theft this morning just after 10 a.m.

Authorities are still investigating the suspect behind the crime, but they do know one thing — a child was kidnapped in the stolen car, as well.

Fortunately, Chattanooga police say the child is “unharmed and has been reunited” with her family.

Following the car theft, Director Amber Rollins of Kids and Car Safety said that, unfortunately, this happens far more frequently than parents may realize.

Police were told by the child’s grandmother that her car and granddaughter were both stolen as she simply ran into a convenience store.

The vehicle was later located “crashed and disabled” at the Volkswagen exit near I-75.

Rollins says this case is sadly not an isolated one.

“Thieves are watching and waiting,” Rollins said. “They know where we feel comfortable running away from our vehicle for just a second and leaving it unlocked — these are crimes of opportunity. This is totally preventable.”

Kids and Car Safety says in 2022 alone, they “documented 264 children who were left alone in a vehicle that was then stolen.”

Rollins says parents should never leave their children alone in a car, regardless of time away or even the child’s age.

“A 13-year-old was in the back seat of an SUV, her family went in to get takeout,” Rollins said. “Someone jumped in the driver’s seat, took off with her in tow, she panicked, tried to jump out, became tangled in her seat belt and was dragged to death.”

Rollins also says no supervision for small children in a car is a major safety hazard, as they can choke on anything they find, escape the vehicle entirely, or even start car fires.

Regardless, she says it’s important not to judge parents or guardians who live through such experiences.

“This happens to wonderful parents who really have never heard of an incident happening like this before,” Rollins said. “It goes to show that we have a lot of work to do in raising awareness and educating about just how dangerous it is to leave your children alone in the car.”

Rollins says if you really are trying to just be in and out somewhere with your child in tow, see if the business you’re going to offers curbside pickup or delivery for safer shopping.

Chattanooga police are asking the community, should you know anything pertaining to the car theft suspect, to please call in or submit a tip through the Atlas One App.

As always, you don’t have to give your name.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Local News