"She never does not lock her car, she locks her car religiously,” said Jack Morrissey of West Hartford.
The one time Morrissey’s wife forgot to press that lock, “I noticed all the stuff was, from the glove compartment, was on the floor and in the seat,” he recalled.
He said at least two other cars on Shephard Road were broken into that same October night in 2019. One of Morrissey’s neighbors said her husband’s checkbook was stolen. The other one’s car was taken but later recovered.
“I was angered more than anything. I wish I could have caught them myself,” said Morrissey.
“What we noticed was that in a very short period of time over this winter we did see a dramatic increase,” said West Hartford Police Captain Michael Perruccio.
Perrccio said in December there were 18 auto thefts in West Hartford, compared to eight in September, nine in October, and seven in November.
On January 14, the West Hartford Police Department launched its new Auto Theft Task Force. Within two-and-a-half hours, a juvenile car burglary suspect was apprehended with stolen credit cards and stolen prescription drugs, according to Perruccio. Just 90 minutes later, another stolen vehicle was picked up. Perruccio said inside they found a stolen handgun, taser, and drugs. Three people were arrested.
“We have officers in marked cars, unmarked cars, we use all types of different things to try to be in the right place at the right time,” he explained of the effort.
“It just seems to be becoming the norm these days,” said Larry Baker.
When thieves stole a car out of a driveway on Grove Street last month, Baker said the culprits actually took the car keys out of his neighbor’s home. He’s hoping police have more of a presence in his neighborhood.
“To get the patrol cars to drive around a little bit more often to patrol the areas that may be a deterrent for these kids to know ‘hey they’re being under the watchful eye of the law,” said Baker.
On January 22, the task force spotted a stolen car and found guns and a juvenile inside.
According to police, the teens committing these crimes are often repeat offenders.
“We truly do want to know why are they doing it? Is it for money, is it for fun? I think in some of the cases we have found out that some of the younger people are doing it just for the rush, just for the excitement, for the thrill, which is very disturbing,” Perruccio said.
He said the teens involved in this type of criminal activity get a summons to appear in court and are sent home with their parents, not to juvenile detention. He said officers often try to talk to the teens they arrest about making better choices.
“If you’re the only voice for that 30 minutes in that child’s life it’s kind of hard to compete with whatever else they have going on that might be leading them down the wrong road,” Perruccio pointed out.
Police are urging people to lock their cars and take their key fobs with them, not just overnight but also when you are warming your car up in the morning.