As new provisions to combat car thefts and break and enters involving minors go into effect this month in Connecticut, local police continued to report high numbers of motor vehicle crimes often at the hands of juvenile offenders .
In Meriden, the number of cars stolen from August 1 to September 30 this year was 71, nearly double the 37 vehicles reported stolen during the same period last year.
A series of arrests of minors linked to reports of stolen vehicles in Meriden last week appear to illustrate the challenge law enforcement faces when the alleged perpetrators are minors. On October 3, six minors were finally charged and four stolen vehicles recovered as officers investigated incidents across the city.
Due to the charges not meeting the criteria for a serious juvenile offense, five of the suspects were given a court date and released to their parents. A sixth suspect has been released into the custody of his parents, as stipulated by the terms of an ongoing warrant.
“There is definitely a concern, especially with minors, because there is no way to hold these minors accountable,” Meriden Police Chief Roberto Rosado said last week. “Sometimes we see minors arrested multiple times on stolen motor vehicles and they are continuously released from our custody to their parents.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that nationally, car thefts increased 16.5% in 2021 from 2019 and nearly 29% from 2017.
A new state juvenile justice law effective Oct. 1 gives police the ability to detain youth charged with crimes for an additional two hours to a maximum of eight hours while police apply for a detention order.
The law also requires faster indictments to bring juvenile offenders before a judge within five days of their arrest.
Another provision allows judges to mandate electronic monitoring of arrested children who are charged with subsequent offenses pending resolution of an existing case.
The law also increases penalties for some serious crimes committed by minors, including murder, sex offenses and gun crimes. The law passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in July.
“These updates to Connecticut’s criminal justice laws speed up juvenile arrest and delinquency proceedings with more information for the courts to consider, provide more intensive responses to the small number of minors facing charges serious and repeated offenses and restructure motor vehicle theft laws to focus on people with prior offences,” Lamont said in a statement.
But according to Rosado, being able to keep minors in custody for an additional two hours doesn’t help.
“We’re trying to get them out of our custody,” Rosado said. “The less time someone spends here, the less time we have to monitor individually.
“It ties up our resources, so keeping someone here a few more hours doesn’t really bring any benefit,” Rosado said. “It just causes more labor issues, shortages, you’re allocating resources to that miner while he’s in our custody.”
Critics of the recent Juvenile Justice Bill believed that juvenile delinquency would be better addressed with additional resources and funding for troubled children.
Wallingford Police Sgt. Stephen Jaques said officers are further limited by a statewide prosecution policy that does not allow officers to prosecute if the driver is a minor and their offense is not “a violent crime “. The prosecution model policy that was adopted in Connecticut on December 6, 2019.
“A pursuit must be terminated if the police officer knows or is reasonably certain that the getaway motor vehicle is being driven by a minor and the alleged offense is not a violent crime,” the policy states.
“Many of our suspects in these cases generally tend to be minors and obviously our ability to apprehend these minors is somewhat limited due to our policy, due to statewide policy “, Jacques said. “They basically know we can’t hunt when they’re fleeing in a motor vehicle.”
Meriden Police spokesman Lt. Darrin McKay said sometimes Meriden police officers arrest the same minor multiple times for auto theft/burglary.
“A lot of times, unfortunately, with the laws set the way they are, for juvenile law, we have a lot of repeat offenders,” McKay said.
McKay said it is up to the community to protect themselves and their property.
“It shows no signs of slowing down right now, so the best thing is for individuals to take the best possible precautions to protect their own vehicles,” McKay said.
Officers noticed that certain makes and models were targeted more frequently than others, such as Hyundais and Hondas, McKay said.
He also stressed the importance of keeping an eye out for key fobs, as some cars have been stolen directly from the owner’s garage.
“People need to remember that this key fob needs to be far enough away from the vehicle that you won’t start it, because if you put your car in your garage and someone walks into your garage and your key is either snagged in your garage even if they can’t find it and they push the button and start it, they take off,” McKay said.
Deputy Chief Frederick Jortner of the Cheshire Police Department said there was no “100 per cent foolproof method” of preventing burglaries or car thefts. However, he said people should adopt a nightly routine of ensuring their vehicle is locked and protected.
“Make sure your car doors are locked at night before you go to bed,” Jortner said. “Make sure your valuables are safe, your car is locked. This will reduce victimization.
The Cheshire Police Department recently rolled out a data dashboard on its website of crimes that have taken place in the city.
“You can actually search for anything you want,” Jortner said.
So far in 2022, Cheshire has had 21 motor vehicles stolen. Since August 1, there have been six.
In 2021, there were a total of 39 stolen motor vehicles, including 34 at the end of September.
“If you look, there’s the date, the case number, the vehicle type,” Jortner said of the data dashboard. “There’s a lot of analytics out there.”
The dashboard also shows various types of crimes and their statistics, including theft from a motor vehicle.
So far in 2022, there have been 35 cases of car burglary and in 2021 there have been a total of 41. In 2020, the total number of cases was 73.
“There really is no pattern, no rhyme or no reason to explain how and when these crimes happen, because otherwise, if they did, we would be able to implement a more proactive police targeting model. But due to its random nature, it makes things much more difficult,” Jortner said.
Southington Police also has a data dashboard where officers log crimes, including where they took place and the day they happened.
From August 1 to September 30, Southington recorded 16 motor vehicle thefts and 39 car break-ins, including ‘smash and grabs’, which Lt. Keith Egan says are higher than in previous years.
“The problem is people lock their car so they do the right thing which is great, however they leave something of value in plain sight usually then the thief drives by from the car, sees the article and it’s a crime of opportunity,” Egan said.
In Wallingford, 29 auto thefts were reported from August 1 to September 20. Twelve motor vehicle thefts were reported.
For the same period last year, 27 vehicle thefts were reported, while the number of motor vehicle thefts was seven.
In 2020, the estimated number of car thefts was 20, while the estimated number of stolen vehicles was 10.
“These roundabout statistics show a slight increase in these types of thefts,” Jaques said. “Nothing blatant, nothing really remarkable.”
Jaques said people protecting themselves are the community’s main way of fighting car thefts and burglaries.
If possible, Jaques suggests community members invest in surveillance cameras or a security system.
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