An Atlanta police officer became the victim of a crime Sunday evening after his patrol car was stolen while he was on duty, authorities said.
The vehicle was taken while the officer was working near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive about 5:35 p.m., the police department said in a statement. After the officer reported the theft, police in the area began looking out for the stolen cruiser and spotted it sitting in traffic.
When officers approached the cruiser, the man sitting inside tried to get out and walk away but was taken into custody, police said. Jason Lee Warrington, 45, was taken to the Fulton County Jail and booked on several charges in connection with the incident.
In addition to theft by taking and interference with government property, he is charged with hit-and-run, possession of drug-related objects, driving with a suspended or revoked license and illegal use of blue light on a vehicle.
Police did not say how Warrington was able to drive off in the cruiser. In recent months, APD has urged citizens to lock and remove valuables from their vehicles amid a rise in car break-ins and auto thefts.
Through the beginning of August, Atlanta police have taken 1,893 reports of stolen vehicles — up 20% from the 1,574 thefts the agency investigated at this point last year. Thefts from cars are up 28% from this time last year, with 5,328 reported so far in 2021.
Among the recent victims is Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat, whose car was broken into Thursday at an Atlanta restaurant, he said during a live question and answer session on Facebook. The sheriff had been at a leadership summit on crime and public safety hosted by District Attorney Fani Willis earlier that day, his wife Jacki Labat said on the live stream.
“Crime is everywhere,” Labat said. “No one is exempt from it unless you stay in your shell and stay in your house.”
Following the event, the couple met up with friends for dinner at La Parrilla on Howell Mill Road. While they were eating, the group heard a car alarm go off, Labat said.
“I got up to check,” he said. “I thought it was a car alarm to a Mustang GT that was next to my car.”
The group finished their meal and left the restaurant. When the Labats returned to their car, they found that the back window had been smashed in and someone had rifled around inside.
Labat said there were no weapons in the car at the time of the break-in. The only item that was missing was a tote bag with a few miscellaneous personal belongings, Jacki Labat said.
“I have vaults in the car, but I didn’t have any weapons in there because I took it inside,” the sheriff said.
While there were no cameras in the restaurant’s parking lot, Jacki Labat said businesses nearby may have surveillance footage that captured part of the break-in. The sheriff added that the culprits left fingerprints behind at the scene.
“I would encourage someone to turn themselves in,” he said, “because we are absolutely — as we have been for the last seven months — going to be making sure that crime is our top priority.”