NEW BRITAIN – Police are asking residents to avoid leaving their running vehicles unattended after a 100 percent increase in the number of cars stolen in the city in January.
“We have people who ran into a store to grab something with the car running to come out and find they have no car,” Capt. Jeanette Portalatin said.
The message the police department is hoping to convey: Don’t leave your running car unattended or you are inviting to have your car stolen, Portalatin said. “Take the keys out and lock your car,” she said.
During all of 2017, police dealt with 380 reports of stolen vehicles. That’s an average of about 32 a month. In the month of January alone, police had 63 reports of stolen cars prompting the department to form a car theft task force, Portalatin said.
The initiative is being staffed by three detectives working full time to track leads on stolen cars and reach out to other towns when stolen cars from other municipalities are located in New Britain.
“A lot of the cars found here are from Bristol or Hartford,” she said.”We are working with those towns to track leads.” Police are also utilizing video surveillance footage in the areas where stolen cars have been taken or found to identify suspects. “We’re trying to exhaust all investigative leads,” she added.
Many of the cars reported stolen in January were running unattended in cold weather either in the victim’s driveway or when the victim pulled up to a store, Portalatin said. Police put out a public service announcement Tuesday featuring an idling car with the words “steal me” on the windshield.
Police are asking residents to lock cars with the windows up, do not leave spare keys inside a vehicle, park in well lit areas and report any suspicious behavior.
Unlocked parked cars with spare keys inside are also being stolen, she said. The most popular type of car stolen in the city appears to 1990s model Hondas although any type of unlocked vehicle can easily become a target for thieves. The suspects in the car thefts appear to be either juveniles or young adults in the 18 to 21 age range, she said.
Police arrested a 19-year-old January 29 after a sharp-eyed officer was on the look out for stolen car activity in the Maple Street area where several stolen cars have turned up, Portalatin said. “He saw someone pull up and ran the license plate and saw it was a stolen car,” she said. The officer followed 19-year-old Tyquan Dechalus who was driving the vehicle and was able to arrest the teen on a first-degree larceny charge.
Anyone who has information on suspicious activity can call 860-826-3000. Anonymous tips can be left on the Community Tip Line at 860-826-3199 or online at www.newbritainpolice.org .