Deterring Auto Theft Focus Of Police Conference
Newtown Police Chief James Viadero recently attended a Bridgeport conference at which six other municipal police chiefs and the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) discussed possible solutions to an ongoing rash of juvenile crime, especially auto theft.
DESPP Commissioner James Rovella, who is a former Hartford police chief, heads the state agency, which oversees the state police. In law enforcement, juveniles are defined as people under age 18.
“The intent of the meeting was to illustrate to the commissioner the issue that all towns and cities are having with juveniles, in particular with stolen vehicles,” Chief Viadero said March 10.
“Our concern is that there are no penalties or consequences for the juveniles for committing such offenses. We were suggesting a matrix in the determination of harsher penalties for those that continue to commit offenses,” Chief Viadero said.
“Our concerns are that these [auto theft] events are turning more violent, with a number of youths being arrested with guns in the stolen cars. The frustration level is high in law enforcement, and we view the stolen cars operated by the juveniles as a ‘two-ton bullet’ being driven around recklessly,” the chief said.
“The commissioner agreed [on] a balanced and reasonable approach to penalizing... these juvenile offenders but cautioned that he does not see the Connecticut legislature rolling back on the [criminal penalty] approach that has been implemented, as it pertains to juveniles,” Chief Viadero said.
“The laws [covering juveniles] have been changed over the years, developing to where they are today,” the chief said. In the past, criminal offenders had been considered “juveniles” until they turned age 16.
Currently, the punishment for criminal offenses by juveniles involves various sanctions. Those sanctions include the juvenile offender’s wearing of Global Positioning System (GPS) monitors to track their location, juvenile probation, and an assortment of other socially-based programs, Chief Viadero said.
Chief Viadero commented that the rash of auto thefts eventually will translate into higher auto insurance premiums for vehicle owners.
The greatest concern stemming from auto thefts by juveniles is the threat that it poses to the general public when stolen vehicles are being driven recklessly by the juvenile thieves, he said.
“Most police departments have strict ‘no pursuit’ policies in place for stolen vehicles for just this reason, unless there is the accompanying element of a more serious crime, [which] would necessitate a pursuit to make an apprehension,” Chief Viadero explained.
The police chief pointed out, “The juveniles know this, and this exacerbates the theft problem.”
“We are also experiencing great recidivism among the juveniles. In some instances, the same individuals are offending over and over again, even after being arrested,” Chief Viadero commented.
Chief Viadero offered residents some advice about deterring auto theft.
The best defense against auto theft is to keep unattended vehicles locked. Do not leave any valuables in the vehicles. Most importantly, do not leave automobile keys or any electronic key fobs in an unattended vehicle.
The police chief said that besides expensive German vehicles, the juvenile thieves seek to steal any vehicle that is easy to steal because the owner has not taken deterrents to prevent auto theft.
In late February, police learned that a parked vehicle had been stolen overnight from a residential driveway on Autumn Ridge Road. The black 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-550 4-Matic sedan was unlocked, and had its keys inside it when it was stolen.
Later that morning, the stolen vehicle was spotted in Danbury. Both Danbury police and state police became involved in pursuits of the stolen auto. The thief was not immediately apprehended.
Newtown crime statistics indicate a marked increase in the local number of vehicle-related crimes in 2018, compared to 2017, including vehicle theft, and the theft of items from within vehicles.
According to crime statistics provided by town police, in 2018, there were 15 confirmed cases of motor vehicle theft, compared to seven such thefts during 2017. In 2016, there were four such thefts, with seven auto thefts occurring in 2015.
That sharp rise in auto theft is not unique to Newtown. Other towns and cities reported similar increases in such crime. In years past, auto theft was a much less common crime.
The statistics show that incidents involving the theft of valuables from within vehicles skyrocketed, with 46 incidents reported in 2018, compared to eight incidents in 2017. In 2016, there were seven cases, with 18 cases reported in 2015.
Again, police urge residents to keep their vehicles locked when unattended, noting that such a measure can deter the theft of items from within vehicles. Coupled with that is the need to remove valuables from unattended vehicles. If possible, vehicles parked overnight should be positioned in well-lit areas.
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