Colchester and Salem see rash of car thefts, break-ins

July 25, 2018 GMT

Colchester and Salem officials have asked residents to use caution amid a rash of car thefts and break-ins, the former of which have been on the rise nationwide.

State police spokesman Sgt. Eric Haglund said Troop K, which is based in Colchester, has responded to one car theft and three break-ins in Colchester this month. The troop also has handled five break-ins in Salem.

Haglund said other cars may have been rummaged through without police being notified.

“Oftentimes individuals that are engaging in this type of criminal activity will go from car to car in a neighborhood or parking lot looking for the vehicle that is unlocked and/or has keys in it,” Haglund said in an email. “Troop K personnel and (Connecticut State Police) want to remind residents to ensure they are locking their vehicles at night and not leaving keys/key fobs/valuables in the vehicles.”

Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden sent out an alert last week warning residents of the break-ins and echoing Haglund’s advice. Colchester officials this week announced a meeting to discuss the topic.

Colchester Resident Trooper Sgt. Martin Martinez will be in Rooms 1 and 2 of Town Hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday to summarize the crimes and allow residents to ask questions.

“Remember that criminals are always looking for an easy opportunity,” the town said in its announcement. “Don’t be a victim.”

Though both towns issued notices this month, at least one resident was victimized last month.

Ricardo Rojo of Stonewall Road in Salem took out the trash on the morning of June 6 only to find his Mercedes-Benz C-Class missing from the driveway.

He called 911 and then opened “Mercedes me,” a cellphone application that helped him track his car to a street in Hartford, where he went with police to retrieve it.

Rojo said his car was not damaged, although other people’s belongings — namely sunglasses and trash — were inside.

Embarrassed, he admitted he had left his car unlocked with the key in it the night before.

He thought the key had fallen from his pocket, he said, “and I noticed before I went to bed but was too lazy to check if that was true.”

“On the bright side,” he said, “my car was not damaged or the lock picked or broken.”

Rojo said a neighbor on his street told him her Ford Explorer also was stolen. He said she reported it to police the same day he reported his vehicle missing.

Rojo reached out to The Day via Twitter in part to warn others not to be lax.

“As long as people know and take precautions, that’s a win,” he said.

Statistics on car thefts and break-ins in Colchester and Salem in June were not immediately available.

On its website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, said summer is the worst season for vehicle theft. Crime statistics show the rate of motor vehicle theft increased steadily from 2013 to 2016 in Connecticut and across the country. Data for more recent years isn’t available.

In Connecticut, 7,105 vehicles were stolen in 2016, costing $50.1 million. About 37 percent of them weren’t recovered.

In a news release, AAA in Greater Hartford said liability insurance policies don’t cover car theft, although comprehensive policies do.

Spokeswoman Amy Parmenter said the cost isn’t just monetary — a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police found stolen cars often become involved in more serious crimes.

“AAA encourages vehicle owners to do everything they can to protect what is likely one of their most significant investments,”  AAA Insurance spokesman Greg Lauria said.