Rash of car thefts are focus for police as virus keeps traffic stops, accidents down

Ridgefield police said that four cars were stolen from residences early Sunday morning.

Ridgefield police said that four cars were stolen from residences early Sunday morning.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

From a statistical standpoint, the Ridgefield Police Department has not been as busy as usual the last two months — except for the stolen cars.

With businesses and schools closed and most people working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, traffic in Ridgefield is down significantly. As a result, the number of police traffic stops, summonses and warnings have all plunged, and officers have far fewer accidents to report.

For example, Ridgefield police made a combined 1,138 traffic stops last March and April. Through April 27 of this year, that number had fallen to 193. Summonses and warnings likewise have plunged from a combined 550 to 132, and reported motor vehicle accidents were down from 79 to 25.

Take away the first two weeks of March (when schools and most businesses were still open) and the drop-off is even more dramatic. During the first 27 days of April, Ridgefield police stopped one vehicle, issued no summonses or warnings, and were called to six accidents.

“The numbers attribute to a lot less activity,” said Captain Shawn Platt, the police department’s public information officer. “People are staying at home.”

But there are two outliers: More vehicles are either being stolen or having items stolen from them.

According to statistics provided Tuesday morning by the Ridgefield Police Department, eight vehicles have been stolen during the last two months (three in March and five in April). By contrast, one vehicle was taken over the same time period in 2019.

Motor-vehicle larcenies are also up, from two in March and April of last year to 11 during the same two months this year.

“Over the past few weeks throughout the State of Connecticut there has been an increase in stolen motor vehicle complaints. This trend is now being seen in the Ridgefield Community,” said Ridgefield police in a press release issued Monday morning.

A good chunk of the upsurge came early Sunday morning — four cars were stolen and five others were rummaged through, with thieves taking change and a wallet. All of the vehicles were parked in driveways or on the street (in the Lafayette and Barry Avenue areas), unlocked, and had keys or fobs inside, according to police.

“We encourage all residents to be diligent in locking and removing keys/fobs from the vehicles overnight since all of the vehicles stolen have been left unsecured with the means to start the ignition left with inside of the vehicle,” said Captain Platt.

As of Tuesday morning, Ridgefield police said one of the vehicles stolen early Sunday had been recovered, in Wethersfield.

Captain Platt said police were uncertain if the thefts were linked to a ring in Waterbury, which has stolen vehicles from other Fairfield County towns.

“We do not know at this time, although credit cards taken from (two) cars were used in Hartford,” Platt said.

All three of the vehicles stolen from Ridgefield residences in March have been recovered, according to police. One of those cars was taken during the day from a gas station, while the owner was inside. “The keys were in the ignition and the car was running,” Captain Platt said. That vehicle was subsequently recovered in Waterbury.

None of the cars stolen and recovered in the last two months have been stripped of parts, according to police.

“Focused patrols will continue in all areas of town due to the randomness of locations,” Captain Platt said. “[During overnight shifts] we have four to five officers ... one desk officer, three or four on the road.”

Anyone with information or video footage pertaining to these crimes is asked to contact the Ridgefield Police Detective Bureau at (203) 431-2794 or the confidential tip line at (203) 431-2345.