Vehicle crimes have been on the rise, and police say thieves are coming up with new, more brazen and more dangerous ways to get what they’re after.
Ken Roden of Plainville, a retired Washington, D.C. police officer, said, “They'll break into your car literally for anything.”
Vehicle thefts are up both in our state and nationally. Connecticut saw a rise of 41% in 2020 compared to the year before, according to the FBI‘s annual uniform crime report.
Now, one Connecticut police department has been sharing with the public some of the thieves’ newest, and troubling, tricks of the trade.
One of the most common methods that has remained: breaking into an unlocked car in a driveway and stealing the vehicle’s contents, or the vehicle.
“How did he start the car? Key fob. He left it in the car. And there it is. Gone. What was that about a minute?” said Plainville Police Sergeant Rich Marques during a presentation in October.
Lately, the police department has not been trying to school people up on how to combat the driveway crimes though, saying more people lock their cars now and remove valuables from plain view.
Marques said now the big push is educating people in town about how to combat the newer, more dangerous ways he says the bad guys are still getting your goods.
“They're having a harder time with the easy picking type stuff…. before the crimes tend to be just where they are going in and getting what they need without having a victim present. But now it's more confrontational,” Marques explained.
One of the first videos Marques showed was from the Samuel’s Crossing subdivision in Plainville, late last year, in the mid-afternoon. Marques said people in a truck scoped out the street, then stole a brand-new Infiniti out of a homeowner’s open garage in broad daylight, while she was feet away inside the house. She remains shaken by the incident and asked that her identity not be shared, adding she almost always has both her garage doors closed.
“I ran inside to do something for literally 10 minutes. And I am seeing my car being pulled out from my garage right before my eyes within minutes. You know, you are, you're where you felt like your safe haven was totally changed. You know, it really does change, it does change.”
With those kinds of thefts, the sad reality about this is, at least until this vehicle crime wave subsides, police said you need to close your garage door, even during the middle of the day, even when you are home. At the same time, it’s what’s now happening after dark with car burglars and thieves that has also police concerned and getting the word out to the public.
There’s an incident from this October at a Plainville Mobil station. A woman was gassing up and watched helplessly as thieves drove up along her vehicle’s passenger side, opened the door, removed her purse, and took off.
Renee Erb of Plainville said she witnessed a similar incident one town over. “It happens so fast, that she didn't even have time to notice that they pulled up and opened her door until they were already in her car.”
Police say to combat something like this, now even when you’re just filling up, get all valuables out of plain sight inside your vehicle, shut it off, hold on to your keys or fob, and lock your vehicle.
Plainville Police has also been showing the public an example from Atlanta, perhaps the most unnerving.
It took place at a downtown intersection just before 10 p.m. on July 14. A suspect intentionally bumped his scooter against someone at a stop sign and pretended to be hurt. The driver gets out of the car, and the suspect’s partner, who was on lookout, runs over and takes off with the car.
The Plainville PD is concerned this may be coming to Connecticut next, offering this advice on making sure you have a quick out at an intersection.
“Leave enough room so you can see some tires and some pavement between those two vehicles. So if you had to get out or go left or right, you could do that.” Marques said.
So do things like keeping your vehicle locked, valuables stashed, and holding on to that key fob, even when you’re doing seemingly safe, like filling up.
Some have said another way to combat these crimes, many of which are committed by juveniles, is tougher penalties…something state lawmakers may deal with in the next legislative session.