Residents around West Ashley's Shadowmoss neighborhood woke up Thursday to a series of unwelcome events: break-ins to their homes and vehicles while they slept.

Six home burglaries and two vehicle break-ins happened during the early morning hours, according to the Charleston Police Department. Detectives are assessing whether the incidents are related. 

One Charleston official — Councilman Harry Griffin, who grew up and still lives in the neighborhood — said he was personally impacted. His father's home was burglarized, and his brother's car was broken into, he said.

"It just shook me," Griffin said. "The important thing for us as citizens is we can continue to help police."

The incidents galvanized many residents into action.

Griffin was joined by City Councilman Kevin Shealy, State Rep. Lin Bennett, R-Charleston, and a Charleston police officer during a 6 p.m. meeting at Crosstowne Christian Church, 1941 Bees Ferry Road, to begin the process of setting up a neighborhood watch group. 

At least 75 residents were in attendance. 

"We aren't going to be vigilantes here," Griffin said. "We're going to be strong partners with our Charleston Police Department." 

During the meeting, officials went over several tips to help keep one's home more secure:

  • Don't leave valuables inside a vehicle.
  • Turn on a porch light or utilize a motion-activated outdoor light.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked before going to bed.
  • Make sure all deadbolts are locked.
  • Lock car doors while at home. 

Bennett said she was thankful that no one was hurt during the burglaries and that her heart stopped when she heard the news.

While initial steps to set up a neighborhood watch group were taken on Thursday, the state representative said another meeting would be held in the near future so that more residents could attend. 

Griffin also said he would set up a private Facebook group to coordinate neighborhood watch efforts. 

For Scott Rider, a 16-year resident of Shadowmoss, Thursday's meeting was a step in the right direction. 

Although the burglaries have upset residents and left many feeling on edge, Rider said community spirit was strong at the meeting and that he hopes people will come closer together.

"I think the good thing is that people will get to know their neighbors a little bit more," he said. 

And stronger bonds could mean a safer Shadowmoss, Rider said.  

The first sign of nefarious activity happened just after 5 a.m. when a resident on Muirfield Parkway called to report surveillance video showing three people on the property, police said.

One person entered an unlocked vehicle while two others stepped onto the home's porch, police said. 

"At this time, the lighting around the house is turned on," police said. "The suspects then ran from the house going westbound on Muirfield Parkway. Nothing appeared missing from the vehicle or the backyard."

Officers were called out several more times Thursday morning up until 9:15 a.m. to homes on Glengary Court, Tomedjan Circle, Sconesill Lane, Shadowmoss Parkway, Toura Lane and Fieldfare Way.

Some residents slept through the break-ins and woke up hours later to find items from their homes missing, their cars rummaged through or wallets and purses lying on the ground with credit cards strewn about, according to incident reports. 

In a few cases, residents woke up after their dogs or cats made noise, and discovered that their homes or cars had been broken into, the reports stated. In one case, a resident heard someone fleeing from his porch as he turned on a light. 

In one case, a person broke into a home of Fieldfare Way around 2 a.m., evaluated the residence and left, according to an incident report. Around 5 a.m., the suspect returned with an accomplice and entered through the same door. 

As the intruders entered the home's living room, the homeowner's dog started barking, and they left, the report stated. 

Nothing was reported missing, police said.

According to the report, officers noticed that the individuals who broke into the home on Fieldfare matched the description of suspects in a series of burglaries and vehicle break-ins in the Ravenel area. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office is investigating those crimes.

Deputies are working with Charleston police to investigate any connections between the incidents, said Capt. Roger Antonio, a Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Investigators ask anyone with information or surveillance video on any of the burglaries or car break-ins to call 843-743-7200 and ask for the on-duty Charleston Police Department central detective.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.