SOUTHINGTON, CT (WFSB) – Police in Southington responded to six thefts from vehicles at local gas stations over the past week.
Police said all of the cars were unlocked and unoccupied at gas pumps. The drivers were either pumping gas or were inside the gas station.
Police pinpointed the gas stations where the thefts happened:
In these incidents, police said the suspect pulls alongside a car and quickly removes a purse, backpack, or any other personal items that are in plain view.
The suspect then gets back into their own car and drives away.
It happens very quickly. Police said all it takes is less than 30 seconds. They also said a familiar criminal is behind the thefts.
"We're always in and out, left the key in the car. It's a key you don't need, you just remote start, and yeah, it was gone for 13 days, took everything from it," recalled Sheryl D'Onofrio-Schmaltz of Southington.
D'Onofrio-Schmaltz said she started being extra careful, but she never really thought of making sure to lock her door while at the pump, until she heard about the rise in thefts in town.
"Wouldn't think that would happen here in Southington, but anything can happen," D'Onorfio-Schmaltz noted.
In the last week, police said drivers at various gas stations, as well as the parking lot of Salsa's Southwest Grill, had their cars targeted.
They all were unlocked when it happened.
Thanks to surveillance footage, police have been able to determine that juveniles are behind these crimes.
"Most of them involve juveniles and almost all of them are connected to stolen vehicles that are in the area. They're all associated with juvenile car thefts," said Southington police Lt. Keith Egan.
The thefts happened at all times of the day.
Egan said it shows people can never be too careful wherever they are.
"There is no specific time of day you need to be alert. It's just, it seems to be, unfortunately, this is a 24 hour issue," Egan stated.
Elizabeth Galey said she's going to be more careful, especially since she easily could've been a victim.
"I've done it. I've locked the doors, but today, I actually left my cell phone under something, but on a seat with the car open," Galey added.
The Town of Cheshire is sending some officers to work on Southington's auto theft task force.
Police are reminding the public to keep their cars locked whenever it is unoccupied.
While at the gas station, they recommended removing keys and locking the vehicle whenever getting out. Also, carry the urged people to carry purses or any other kind of bag with them, or make sure it’s not in plain view.
Anyone with information or videos from any burglaries or thefts should contact Southington police by emailing email@example.com.
Police also released some reminders:
Lock Your Doors
A majority of car break-ins and thefts are from unlocked cars. Even if you are parked in front of your house, in your driveway or inside your garage, lock your doors. Criminals like to walk down the street and see if a car is unlocked, if it is they open the door and take whatever is visible and move on to the next target. However, if the door is locked, they are more likely to move on.
Secure Your Vehicle
Roll your car windows up all the way and engage the car alarm, but do not depend on it as the only way to deter a thief. A car thief can break into your car and be out in about 30 seconds, fast enough that an alarm doesn't scare most of them away.
Keep Your Vehicle Tidy
Thieves like to window shop! Avoid leaving anything visible in the car. Almost any item that's visible from the outside - even if you think it is worthless - could be seen as valuable to a thief. Your spare change, sunglasses, even an empty bag (a thief may think there is something inside the bag) could be valuable in the mind of a thief.
Conceal All Proof
Stow your electronics and accessories well out of sight, or just take it along with you. The proof alone might be enough to pique the interest of thieves, including items such as power cords, adapters, and GPS windshield suction-cup mounts. If you remove the suction cup, make sure to wipe the ring off the windshield; it's a dead giveaway that you own a GPS.
Stash Before You Park
Get in the habit of putting items you want hidden in the trunk of your car before you arrive at your destination. Thieves will linger in busy parking lots looking for you to stash your valuable items.
Park in a busy, well-lit area and avoid concealment from larger vehicles, fences, or foliage. Avoid parking in isolated and poorly-lit areas.
We are asking, if you witnesses a break-in or theft in progress, call 911 immediately! Provide the 911 dispatcher with as much information as possible, such as:
- Location - Provide an address, block number, or specific location in a parking lot
- Description of the suspect - Provide as much information as you can, i.e. sex, race, age, height, weight, hair color and length, color and length of facial hair, colors and style of clothing, and identifying marks such as tattoos and piercings
- Direction - If the suspect flees, give the direction of travel. If they flee on a bicycle or in a vehicle, describe the color, make, model, and license plate number, if it is safe to do so!