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Burlington police investigate string of vehicle break-ins targeting women

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- In recent weeks, Burlington police have had their hands busy with a string of vehicle break-ins in the parking lot of the Aldi store on South Church Street.

After staking out the parking lot they were able to nab Josue Daniel Hernandez-Gongora, 18, on Tuesday.

Police say they caught him trying to open locked cars in the parking lot and they eventually caught him snatching a purse out of a car.

They are also looking for Trevor Omar Ruiz, 17, and Alan Vargas Mendez, 17. The two suspects were identified from previous vehicle break-ins.

“I think it’s terrible you can’t go shopping, much less at a grocery store,” said Barbara Jones, who is a regular shopper at Aldi.

In just the last few weeks there have been about eight instances where Burlington police believe that women have been the target of break-ins during the daytime in the parking lot.

“We’ve been doing surveillance for about a week or so in the parking lot,” said Sgt. Chris Smith.

"He would take the opportunity while the females would return their carts to go into their vehicle once he seen they may have placed a purse in the vehicle,” he explained.

Police say anything from purses and other valuable items were taken from cars.

“Burlington has gotten so many break-ins and so I’m not surprised, no. I just pretty much keep everything inside of my purse and keep my purse with me,” said Amy Gwinn, also a frequent shopper at the store.

“Most of the time I don’t carry a purse with me. I’ll carry my card or something like that. I keep my doors locked even at home and even at church,” stated Jones.

Hernandez-Gongora is at the Alamance County Jail and is charged with seven counts of felonious breaking and entering, eight counts of misdemeanor larceny and larceny from a person.