MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thieves got away with some jewelry, a wallet and an iPhone after breaking into unlocked cars in the Providence area of Mt. Juliet Sunday night, according to police.

However, officers said the situation could have ended worse.

The crimes were caught on surveillance video. Police said the thieves worked in a team of four, targeting unlocked vehicles. The video shows one of the suspects driving up to a home and the others getting out and checking car door handles.

“They look like teenagers,” Captain Tyler Chandler with the Mt. Juliet Police Department said. “They could be young adults, but they look very, very young.”

Chandler told News 2 the suspects went through several Providence area neighborhoods, but only got into three cars, stealing a small number of items.

However, the surveillance video showed one of the thieves holding a gun during the break-ins, which is cause for concern for officers.

“It’s not strapped to him. It’s in his hand ready to go, and it’s our fear if anyone tried to confront these individuals that they may return fire and shoot them, trying to scare them away or actively trying to hurt them,” Chandler said.

That didn’t happen in this situation, but police said it’s becoming a trend across the Nashville area.

No guns were stolen in this incident, but officers said criminals often steal them from unlocked cars; it’s one of the main ways they get their hands on firearms. Police added that could have easily happened in this situation.

“It’s very easy for criminals, thieves to obtain guns,” Chandler said. “All they have to do is pull on unlocked car door handles, and we want to change that.”

Despite this incident, thefts from car break-ins in Mt. Juliet have dropped 41% since the police department implemented its license plate recognition program in 2020. In addition, robberies have decreased 67%, and motor vehicle thefts have decreased 21%.

The license plate recognition program scans license plates as cars drive by the camera system, then compares the plate numbers to those listed as stolen or involved in other criminal activities.

“The whole reason we got into the license plate recognition program was to reduce that type of crime in our community, and we are seeing those results where it’s almost reduced in half across the Mt. Juliet area,” Chandler said.

Officers advise the public not to approach someone who is breaking into a car, suggesting they call police instead. They also remind people to lock their vehicles.

If you recognize the suspects shown in the surveillance video or know their whereabouts, call (615) 754-8477, or click here to leave an anonymous tip.