NEW BRITAIN - Police are asking residents to avoid leaving their running vehicles unattended after cars were stolen in January twice as frequently as in an average month last year.
“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.
“Take the keys out and lock your car,” Portalatin said.
In 2017, police dealt with 380 reports of stolen vehicles. That’s an average of about 32 a month. But this 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, who track leads on stolen cars and contact other towns when stolen cars are found 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 using video surveillance footage to identify suspects.
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 the car, park in well-lit areas and report any suspicious behavior.
The most popular cars stolen in the city appear to be 1990s Hondas, although any unlocked vehicle can become a target for thieves.
The suspects in the car thefts appear to be 18 to 21 years old, Portalatin said.
An officer watching for car thieves on Maple Street, where several stolen cars have shown up, arrested an 18-year-old Maple Street resident on Jan. 29, Portalatin said.
“He saw someone pull up and ran the license plate and saw it was a stolen car,” she said. The officer followed 18-year-old Tyquan Dechalus, who was driving the car, and arrested him 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 .