On Monday Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey and Captain Kraig Gray convened a press briefing to implore the Greenwich community to stop leaving their cars unlocked with keys inside following a weekend spree of car thefts and high speed police chases, which police say endangered the community and Greenwich Police officers.
Chief Heavey said unfortunately Greenwich has developed a reputation as a destination for car thieves. “Not a single car did not have the keys in it,” he said.
“Lock your car and take your keys with you every place, every time,” Heavey said for starters, adding that there are other simple ways to avoid becoming a victim. He said dark houses, houses with newspapers piled up, and mailboxes brimming with a week’s worth of bills are invitations to thieves.
“I recommend you keep a spare set of keys with an alarm by your bed at night and when you hear a suspicious noise outside, you set off the alarm,” Heavey said. Another suggestion is to install motion sensor detectors in the driveway.
Chief Heavey noted that Greenwich is indeed a safe community to live in. However, that may have created a mindset of invulnerability among residents that translates into unlocked cars, keys and valuables left inside. Now Greenwich, in addition to neighboring communities including Darien and New Canaan are destinations for car thieves.
Because of Greenwich’s reputation as an easy target, Heavey said eight people went to bed on Saturday night only to wake up to find their cars gone. All had been left unlocked and the keys inside.
With his frustration evident, Heavey said the thefts of cars, mostly by teen joyriders, costs everyone in the long run. “It costs us all in terms of insurance money and more than half the stolen cars come back damaged,” he said.
“They beat the hell out of these cars,” Captain Gray said.
Detective Anthony Fiscella said the joyriders drive at high rates of speed, go into guard rails and do serious damage to the stolen cars. He said the thieves come from cities including Hartford, Waterbury, New Haven, the Bronx and Bridgeport.
“It’s a game they call bumping,” Detective Fiscella said, adding that although the recovery rate is very high, the cars are returned with a lot of damage.
Also, he said, the thieves come to Greenwich to commit other crimes and make money by stealing valuables.
Captain Gray said a teen can make $100 or $200 a night selling stolen electronics. “They work every night. They can make a lot,” Gray said.
Captain Gray said recently there was an incident where Greenwich Police were about to apprehend a prolific burglar, but the suspect was able to escape the police dragnet after jumping into a neighbor’s unlocked car that was left with its keys inside.
Over the weekend cars were stolen from the following streets (below) and one car was recovered on Tod Lane that had been stolen from Hartford.
- Shore Road (in central Greenwich)
- East Elm St
- North Street
- Loch Lane
- Milbank Ave
Some of the cars stolen were:
- 2012 Mercedes SUV
- 2016 VW Jetta
- 2014 GMC Acadia
- 2006 Land Rover
- 2015 BMW 328
- 2011 Honda CRX
- 2015 Mercedez Benz
- 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Also, over the weekend there were two high speed police pursuits. One chase went to the service road on North Street opposite the reservoir, where the thief escaped on foot and remains at large.
One went all the way over the state line into Bedford, where a New York jurisdiction took over the pursuit. Three teens between the ages of 14 and 17 were apprehended in New York.
Police are confident that there will be more arrests.
“The car flipped over several times and landed on its tires and kept going until the tires failed,” Heavey said of the chase that went over the state line, adding that the time was around 3:00am.
Heavey said the incidents over this past weekend involve at least the third organized juvenile gang of car thieves.
“It takes a very low level of sophistication on the part of these thieves,” Captain Gray said.
Police say there is a nexus between Hartford and Greenwich, as well as Waterbury and Bridgeport. There were two stolen vehicles from Hartford that were recovered in Greenwich (see photo).
“They are looking for low hanging fruit,” Captain Gray said. “They’re not just coming here by happenstance. There must be information that as a community we’re not prepared.” Gray said that these are crimes of opportunity that don’t attract the most sophisticated criminals.
Police say that the cars are not just being stolen on weekends. “It’s every night, and now they seem to be targeting the mid country, and some of these locations are where there have been home burglaries,” Chief Heavey said.
Police have made several arrests, but insist the problem will recur until residents begin to lock their cars and bring their valuables inside.
In the period between Jan 1, 2017 and July 17 37 vehicles have been stolen. In the same period in 2016 21 were stolen.
Greenwich Police have an ad hoc task force in the affected communities as well as the communities the thieves are coming from, but they beseech Greenwich residents to change their habits, and deter these thieves from the get go.