16th Police District experienced an increase in vehicle thefts




by BRIAN NADIG

The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District experienced an increase in vehicle thefts during the last several weeks of winter, although many of the vehicles were recovered.

During a four-week period in February and March, 44 vehicles were reported stolen in the district, compared to 16 during the same period last year. A total of 121 vehicles have been reported stolen this year through April 3, compared to 76 during the same period last year.

Police believe that youths may have stolen some of the cars for joy rides and before leaving them not far from where they were stolen, police officials reported at the March 17 meeting of the 16th District Advisory Committee.

16th District commander William Looney said that a "jiggle key," which dealerships sometimes use to unlock cars, may have been used to enter several of the stolen vehicles. "When we recover a vehicle, we find that no damage has been done to the vehicle," Looney said. "The steering wheel is not stripped.

Several thefts involved work vans that were recovered on the South Side but not before tools and other items were stolen, police said. In one incident, police have footage of a commercial vehicle being stolen from a parking lot in the 6000 block of North Northwest Highway, and it appears that a screwdriver-type device was used to start the engine.

There have been 10 arrests for vehicle theft or criminal trespass to a vehicle in recent weeks in the district. One of those arrested was a high school student who got into an accident with a stolen vehicle, while others were stopped for a traffic violation, Looney said.

Many of the missing vehicles have been Fords and Nissans, but earlier in the year Hondas and Toyotas were most frequently stolen, Looney said. Police suspect that car theft rings are targeting the area, he said.

Some of the reported car thefts in the district may be reclassified because it is not unusual for owners to later tell police that they had forgotten that a relative had permission to use the car, Looney said.

Also at the meeting, the committee announced that Mary Via won its Officer of the Month Award for her Jan. 25 arrest of a suspect who was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle following a traffic stop. Two passengers were charged with criminal trespass to a vehicle.

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