Crime wave: Burglaries surpass last year’s totals

Four stolen cars, two dozen unlocked vehicles entered and robbed in the middle of the night while parked at home — the safest town in America has taken a few chinks in its armor in 2017.

Ridgefield, heralded for its low crime rate in past years, is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis this week following police reports that 20 unlocked cars were burglarized over the weekend. Two cars were also stolen — one parked at a Lakeview Drive home, another at the Branchville train station — with keys left inside. There have now been four cars stolen in town this year.

In 2016, police reported one vehicle — a motorcycle — was stolen in town. And only 23 vehicle larcenies were reported in all of last year, compared to the 24 burglaries that have taken place in the first six weeks of 2017.

“Larceny is a crime of opportunity,” Capt. Jeff Kreitz said Tuesday. “And if you keep giving them that opportunity, they will take it. You have to lock you car and take care of your possessions. …

“There’s a sense of security here, which means residents are more apt to leave their vehicles unlocked,” he said. “This is still a very safe town, but there’s not a single town that’s 100% immune to crime.”

A majority of vehicles that were broken into and robbed last year — and in past years — were parked during the daytime in public lots at the rec center, Copps Hill Plaza, or day care facilities.

“Those are more singular, isolated incidents, most likely done by an individual,” said Kreitz, who suspects a group of criminals is responsible for the recent pattern.

He said that 15 vehicle larcenies took place overnight between Sunday, Feb. 5, and Monday, Feb. 6, on the following roads: Old Stagecoach Road, Bob Hill Road, Todds Road, Aspen Ledges Drive, Great Hill Road, Douglas Lane, Mountain Road, Madeline Drive, and Lakeview Drive.

The department also received five reports of unlocked, parked vehicles being entered at a Danbury Road condominium complex overnight between Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4.

In all 20 cases, vehicles were rummaged through and items were stolen.

“The majority of these larcenies have taken place in the Ridgebury area of town — northern Ridgefield,” Kreitz said. “But that’s not the only area that’s been hit. We’ve received calls from residents on Peaceable Street, Golf Lane and on Danbury Road the other night.”

The proximity to the New York state line and the Danbury town line seems to be a common thread in where homes are targeted, according to Kreitz.

“If you look up at the Ridgebury area, there are a number of escape routes. You can get right on the interstate pretty quickly.”

Around the county

Ridgefield isn’t alone in seeing an uptick in vehicle robberies, police say.

“All of Fairfield County is being hit,” Kreitz said. “Area towns are experiencing the same issues. The solution is to lock your cars, bring all valuables inside the house and to report anything you see. …

“We want people to call — and call immediately.”

Physical description, time of day, location — these are among the things detectives rely on from callers who report crimes.

“Where did they go? What type of car were they driving? What were they doing?” Kreitz said. “Any physical description or identifier will help us.”

Should Ridgefielders be scared of the rise in crime?

“There should be a sense of security here — this is a safe town with very little violent crime,” said Kreitz.

He added the department has put extra patrol units out overnight since December.

“We take it to heart when these crimes are committed in our town,” Kreitz said.

Residents react

Kreitz said the most valuable items reported stolen were a laptop, a pocketbook, and a GPS system.

According to the town’s Facebook page, the stolen items range from CDs to basketball sneakers to a case of water bottles.  

“We are blessed with a safe town, but nowhere is 100% crime-free,” one resident posted on Facebook Monday.

“They got my kid’s basketball sneakers three weeks ago,” another said. “Left his backpack on the road a few blocks from the house.”

Rough 2017

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2017.

On Jan. 4, police said they were investigating three separate reports of larcenies from vehicles parked at homes in the Peaceable Street area. A vehicle was also stolen in that area.

Two days before that, a Porsche was stolen from Haviland Road.

In both cases, keys were left inside.

“One of the other reasons they keep coming here is because they’ve been successful — they’ve found unlocked cars and that’s why they keep coming back.”

The Chevy Suburban that was stolen from the Branchville train station Saturday, Feb. 4, at 11:50 p.m. was found in the West Redding train station parking lot Sunday, Feb. 5.

On Lakeview Drive, a resident called at 7:33 a.m. Monday, Feb. 6, to reported that a Saab 9-3 had been stolen.

Kreitz said the car was parked in the driveway of the home with the keys left inside.

“We would like to remind everyone to lock your vehicles and remove all valuables,” Kreitz said. “Please report any suspicious activity to the Ridgefield Police Department at 203-438-6531 or dial 911 in the event of an emergency.”