Communities continue to be plagued by vehicle thefts

Jeff Saunders
Kent Weeklies
Police lights

As pursuits go, the one Twinsburg police became involved with up into Bedford Heights Oct. 30 was definitely different, when they found a car that had been reported stolen with two other suspected stolen vehicles.

Then the pursuit began, with speeds reaching 120 mph before police broke off chasing the three vehicles on Interstate 271 around Rockside Road, said Twinsburg Police Sgt. Brian Donato. He said the Lincoln Aviator police were initially looking for had just been reported stolen from a Darien Lane home.

Police believe the incident is related to numerous vehicle thefts and thefts from vehicles that have plagued Greater Cleveland communities in recent months, including as many as six other vehicles that had been reported stolen in Twinsburg during the previous week, and other thefts reported in Macedonia, Hudson and Aurora in the past two months.

“It’s going on everywhere,” said Macedonia Police Lt. Vince Yakopovich. “There’s a lot going on in Northeast Ohio with it. We’re working with other agencies.”

In an Oct. 26 Facebook post, Twinsburg Police Chief Chris Noga wrote that a 17-year-old “thief” who had been arrested recently, had explained in a nutshell why he and others had been so successful.

“It’s just that those people out there are stupid because they leave their keys in there,” Noga quoted the juvenile, who Donato said had been arrested in the Brunswick area.

Noga said the “crew” the juvenile was working with had begun operating in the suburbs because they had learned another group had had success there.

“Don’t leave your keys in your car,” said Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard. “Lock your car. We tend to let our guard down in the suburbs.”

Donato said the Oct. 30 Darien Lane theft was reported at about 3:30 a.m. after the owner heard a noise in his open garage, looked out and saw the car being taken.

“We ended up seeing it with two other vehicles and they [officers] pursued,” he said, adding that the pursuit traveled up Interstate 480 onto Interstate 271.

Donato said it is believed one of the other vehicles was stolen in Solon while it is unknown whether the third was stolen. Donato said that later that morning, the Lincoln was found abandoned in Euclid. In fact police departments around the area have reported that many of the stolen vehicles were later found abandoned, typically in Cuyahoga County.

“I don’t know if it’s common or uncommon, but that’s a trend that we’re seeing right now,” said Donato, adding that several other recently stolen vehicles had also been recovered.

According to police reports, five vehicles were reported stolen from outside Twinsburg homes overnight Oct. 23-25, including on Lawnfield Drive, Melissa Court, Chamberlin Road, and Orchard Hill and Killingworth lanes.

A Warrensville Heights man reported someone stole his vehicle after he left it running for a few minutes outside the Hadden Road GetGo service station store at around 5:15 p.m. Oct. 26.

“It’s all kids coming out here, stealing cars and going for a joyride. That’s what it seems like,” said Donato.

In addition, vehicles parked outside five other homes were reported rummaged through during the night Oct. 23-25, including on Lawnfield and Killingworth and Jennifer, Monticello and Darrow Park drives. Thefts were reported from most of the vehicles, including an approximately $850 laptop computer and miscellaneous other items and a total of about $50 in cash.

The incidents were a repeat of more than a dozen similar break-ins and thefts that took place in Twinsburg in September.

Other neighboring communities have also reported thefts within the past couple of months, according to police reports. In Macedonia, two Newport Drive residents reported Oct. 8 that their vehicles had been reported stolen from their driveways since the evening before.

More:Police investigating Hudson and Twinsburg vehicle thefts

Hudson police responded to reports of five stolen vehicles in the city’s northwest area during the night Sept. 20 — three were recovered in Cleveland and two in Hudson — while as many as 10 other vehicles were rummaged through and items stolen.

In Aurora, a Moneta Avenue woman’s vehicle was stolen and found abandoned during the night Sept. 13 by Solon police. Two other vehicles, on Moneta and on Orchard Avenue, were broke into the same night.

Police say that typically, the vehicles are left unlocked and vehicles that are stolen have their keys left in them. Incidents also generally occur late in the evening or during the night.

“The group will drive together in the same car to a pre-determined suburban neighborhood where several ‘runners’ will jump out and creep through the area, testing door handles on vehicles parked in driveways…” Noga wrote on Facebook. “The runners will rummage through unlocked vehicles and take any items they perceive as valuable. If the keys are in the vehicle, they will also steal it and continue operating in the general area until all the runners have stolen a car.

"According to our thief, the crew will open garage doors if they find an opener inside an unlocked car parked outside knowing that they will find keys inside a garaged car or that they can locate the vehicle keys nearby inside the house. They may also enter the residence because the man door from the garage to the house is also usually unlocked. |

"Our thief also said that he and his crew are not deterred by floodlights, motion-activated lights, fences, dogs or security cameras. They do not break into locked vehicles since there are so many unlocked vehicles to choose from.”

Noga said residents can do a great deal to deter thefts by keeping their vehicles and garages locked, securing garage door openers and by activating anti-theft devices, keeping vehicle windows closed and not keeping valuables inside their cars.

Byard said he agrees that residents can take steps in avoiding becoming victims.

“You know these individuals travel the streets in the middle of the night looking for crimes of opportunity and they’re not afraid to go into homes or into garages, man doors, and our homes to get keys or other merchandise,” he said. “They’re pretty brazen.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.