Police hope residents can slow number of car break-ins

The Board of Police Commissioners is responsible for the general management and supervision of the Ridgefield Police Department.

The Board of Police Commissioners is responsible for the general management and supervision of the Ridgefield Police Department.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

At the same time each night, the Ridgefield Police Department sends out an ARB (All Ridgefield Bulletin) on its Facebook page.

A post with the heading “#9PMRoutine” asks residents three simple questions: “Car Locked? Garage Locked? House Locked?”

The nightly reminder messaging is in response to a wave of vehicle break-ins and thefts that has been washing over Ridgefield and many other Fairfield County towns. Ridgefield police say they have received 34 reports of larceny from a motor vehicle and 21 reports of stolen vehicles in 2020.

Through the first eight months of 2019, police had received 14 reports of items taken from cars and only five reports of cars being stolen.

“Yes, larcenies from motor vehicles and stolen motor vehicles have increased compared to last year,” said Shawn Platt, a captain who oversees public relations for the department. “It’s not just Ridgefield ... it’s happening all over.”

According to Platt, the car break-ins and thefts follow a typical pattern.

“In those cases reported with video recordings, it’s multiple subjects being dropped off and [they] will then enter the property on foot,” Platt said. “They check for unlocked vehicles, and once inside the vehicle they take what is readily available, or if the keys are in it they will take the vehicle. The images taken from security cameras are not good enough quality for identification purposes.”

On social media, some Ridgefield residents have questioned if police have enough officers on duty overnight.

“We have a minimum of (4) police officers working per shift,” Platt said. “Each of those officers are assigned to specific duty or sectors of town to patrol. These sectors include all the areas of concern while on patrol.”

Ridgefield police have received seven reports of larceny from a motor vehicle and four reports of stolen vehicles in August. The four vehicles stolen were from two locations, with two taken at each spot. Two of the vehicles were subsequently recovered in Bridgeport.

“All of our incidents have been unsecured vehicles,” Platt said. “We are aware that other agencies have reasons to believe that vehicles in their jurisdictions are being entered by manipulating remote starting capabilities, but we have not experienced those types of situations.

“In the Ridgefield cases of stolen motor vehicles, it has been our experience that the perpetrators are overwhelmingly juveniles,” Platt added. “When a stolen motor vehicle is recovered, the vehicle is processed by the detective bureau, which includes touch-DNA transfer processing. If there is a DNA evidence identification, it may take years until the juvenile is arrested as an adult, and then has their DNA entered into the criminal DNA database before we know the identity of the perpetrator.

“Officers have interrupted juveniles attempting these crimes in the past ... ” Platt said. “[They] have fled in other vehicles ... state policy prohibits officers to pursue vehicles in these situations.”

Platt hopes the nightly Facebook reminders will serve as a deterrent.

“We need the help of the public in combating these cases, which have become more of a crime of opportunity,” he said. “We always ask our residents to be diligent and secure their homes and vehicles overnight, and if you see something, call us immediately and we will respond.”