Record year for vehicle crimes

Not even eight full months into the year, motor vehicle thefts nearly doubled in Wilton and burglaries from vehicles is slightly higher.

There have been 13 vehicles stolen this year, up from six reported stolen in all of 2017. There were also six stolen in 2016. The total spiked in late July with the unusual theft of seven vehicles from a dealership. The vehicles were later recovered in Bridgeport.

“There has been a large increase in both in the last year, mostly due to juveniles from Bridgeport, New Haven, and Waterbury. The entire state is experiencing a huge increase in juveniles committing motor vehicle burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and larceny,” said Lt. Rob Kluk, spokesman for the department.

For motor vehicle burglaries, the total is 45 for the year so far, slightly more than 44 last year, but more than double the total of 19 in 2016.

The car burglaries are preventable. People have left car doors open, and valuables in plain sight. Police have said it’s a case of Wiltonians feeling too comfortable in their environment and not locking car doors, sometimes even leaving the keys inside.

The car thefts have not been the classic type where the car is brought to a chop shop and sold for parts. Rather, it seems to be juveniles taking cars for joy rides, said Capt. Thomas Conlan.

When caught, the juveniles involved get only a limited legal response to their crime from the judicial system because of their age, he said.

Detective James Palmieri in Darien said the arrest often doesn’t have the desired effect.

“For example, we recently had an arrest where the juvenile had been taken into custody for the same crime just days earlier. The suspect had been released and was out committing the same crimes, breaking into and stealing cars,” Palmieri said.

In the Wilton dealership case, police received a complaint July 29 at 11:29 a.m. of a possible stolen vehicle from the Devan Chevrolet dealership at 190 Danbury Road.

When police responded it was determined that seven vehicles and three key fobs were stolen during the early morning hours. Forced entry was obtained through the service department. A group of several individuals was seen entering the property at 1 a.m. on a surveillance camera, with a window being smashed and entry being made. Six of the seven cars were recovered in Bridgeport by July 31.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 203-834-6260.

From a regional perspective, Wilton has had a worse time with vehicle thefts and burglaries than its nearest neighbors, like Westport.

For the year, Westport has had 14 stolen cars, compared with a total of 35 for all of 2017. There were 39 burglaries from motor vehicles for the year, compared to 163 in 2017, so that number was down considerably.

Norwalk has also been more fortunate this year. “We have been fortunate,” said Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. Motor vehicle burglaries so far this year are down to 69 from a total of 97 in 2017, he said.

Car thefts in Norwalk were down by the end of May to 46, from 66 the previous five-month period. Figures for June and July were not available there.

Police have said in the past that youths from cities like Bridgeport and Waterbury know to target suburbs like Wilton.

“I can say that throughout Fairfield County and the state as a whole, burglaries into unlocked vehicles has been a major issue for some time with specific towns being targeted at various times,” Chief Kulhawik said.

In Darien, there has been a substantial uptick in stolen cars and motor vehicle burglaries, said Palmieri, who did not have exact data.

“I couldn't say for certain that it’s the same people or group in Wilton. What I can say is that in working with neighboring departments we've discovered that we have mutual suspects, and that many of them are working together. We've had some successes in making arrests, the bulk of the suspects have been juveniles from Stamford, Bridgeport, and New Haven,” Palmieri said.

Darien police have further determined that the suspects are keenly aware of where car doors are left unlocked and/or with the keys inside in the towns.

“I personally can't recall the last stolen car we had where the keys had not been used to drive the vehicle away. I fear that until we become less of a ‘target-rich environment’ we will continue to experience these crimes,” Palmieri said.

Police in New Canaan said motor vehicle larcenies dropped to 8 from 23 the previous seven-month period a year earlier, while car thefts were up to seven from five a year earlier.

Police in Ridgefield also reported a drop in these crimes. Stolen cars stood at 7, down from 18 the year before, and larceny from vehicles amounted to 10 cases, down from 41 the previous year.