Officials: Brothers charged with Park and Ride vehicle thefts

Kenneth Damian Allen. Image source: Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Kenneth Damian Allen. Image source: Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Austin Colby Allen. Image source: Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Austin Colby Allen. Image source: Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - For four months now vehicles have come up stolen at the park and idea lot off North Washington Avenue. An estimated 80 to 100 people park there each day and carpool to work. After a surveillance operation, Jackson County deputies arrested two brothers who they believe are linked to six vehicle thefts.

Learning thieves were hitting up the heavily used park and ride lot for months has many commuters downright angry.

"You don't have enough tape in that camera to express how I really feel. I get up and I go to work every day. I work hard for what I have and if somebody that's too lazy to get off their rear end to go to work is gonna break in and steal stuff that I work for there where they need to be," said Robert Pfeffer.

"We ride a van back and forth to work and it saves on gas," said Greg Martin.

"I used to work for a company here for five years and I would come here and park the company vehicles. So I can tell you a working man that loses their vehicle it hurts inside," said Mark Smith.

Sergeant Jeff Smith with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department says vehicles started coming up missing in January.

After four months of this crime spree investigators were able to put together a pattern which led to the April arrests of Vancleave brothers, Kenneth and Austin Allen.

They figured out that many of the vehicles were stolen during the day; a lot of them were older models which Smith says are often easier for thieves to take. Officials say many of the vehicles were unlocked and some even had the keys inside.

"It's a big arrest. It comes after a large operation or a large series of auto thefts from a local area. So it's' gonna stop them and put a stop to that at least," said Sgt. Jeff Smith with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

John Fletcher says he understands parking his vehicle anywhere comes with risks.

"You're leaving your car overnight. It's a parking lot. What do you expect, in this day in age? It's no shock at all, people coming in stealing cars and whatever," said John Fletcher.

Authorities say the investigation is ongoing.

Commuters who use the Park and Ride in the St. Martin community can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Jackson County Sheriff Charles Britt said investigators observed Austin Allen and Kenneth Allen stealing a van from the Park and Ride last Tuesday. Officials said the brothers were later stopped and arrested.

Britt said further investigation linked Kenneth to a vehicle theft from the Park and Ride the week before. Austin was also charged with this theft as well as a separate vehicle theft from March 15, 2014.

Britt said Austin is charged with three counts of felony taking of a motor vehicle and Kenneth is charged with two counts of the same crime.

Britt said Kenneth was out on bond for a previous charge and that bond has been revoked. Austin was released on May 2, after posting a $30,000 bond.

If convicted, each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine per charge.

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