Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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North Haven Police Advise on Theft Prevention

In recent years there has been an uptick in not just vehicle entries but the theft of catalytic converters and the outright theft of vehicles themselves, according to police. Police can’t be everywhere all the time, so when it comes to crime prevention, awareness and common sense are key.

Captain Andrew Stavrides of the North Haven Police Department spoke recently with the Courier to review the state of criminal activity in town as it relates to thefts and outlined steps everyone can take to help mitigate these crimes.

“We have seen increases in crimes involving vehicles,” Stavrides noted and offered thoughts on why these crimes are increasing.

“We feel this is a mix of pandemic-related economic instability, less student and social services for our youth in some communities, a lack of accountability in the juvenile justice system, and easy targets, [or] crimes of opportunity,” stated Stavrides.

When it comes to the rash of catalytic converter thefts, the problem is not isolated to North Haven but affects towns throughout Connecticut.

“We have seen a gradual increase over the past year and a half,” Stavrides said, regarding the theft of catalytic converters.

“With the right tools, they can be removed quickly,” Stavrides noted, adding, “Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and Rhodium, so scrapping them can be lucrative.”

One of the major problems when it comes to the theft of catalytic converters is the lack of cooperation among the less scrupulous scrap yards that fail to work with police and report the purchases they make of catalytic converters.

Police detectives note that when a scrap yard purchases a catalytic converter, the transaction is supposed to be recorded on a “scrap sheet,” and that information is then supposed to be given to police under both state and town ordinances. Not all scrap yards comply with these rules, and thus thieves can circumvent the system aimed at reducing catalytic converter thefts.

With the ongoing and increasing issue of “crimes of opportunity” as Stavrides explained, it’s important for everyone to be aware and make strides to reduce opportunity to help reduce the number of crimes.

“The best way to prevent catalytic converter theft is to park your vehicle in a garage,” stated Stavrides. “This is not always possible, so if you must park outside, it is best to park in well-lit areas, as close to the front of a building entrance or nearby access road as you can. These areas are more visible and have higher pedestrian traffic, which can often deter would-be thieves.”

For those who don’t a garage, Stavrides noted there are several security devices for converter theft prevention.

“These devices work well and are likely cheaper than having to replace a whole converter,” Stavrides explained. “You can also consider engraving your VIN or license plate number into the converter, as well as painting it. This may deter thieves from your vehicle by making your converter harder to scrap.”

Although police say many of these thefts are perpetrated by people from out of town, Stavrides notes that his department has also encountered people inside North Haven committing various types of vehicle thefts and larcenies.

“The majority of our stolen vehicles have been recovered in nearby cities, although we believe criminals come from all over, and [from] within,” Stavrides stated.

Police also warn that thieves are getting more brazen in what they are stealing, and when they strike.

“We have seen thefts such as catalytic converters being stolen in broad daylight in populated areas, like commuter lots, schools, retail plazas, and residential driveways,” Stavrides stated, adding, “Unattended vehicles [are also being] stolen while running in people’s driveways,” and the department has seen an increase in “daytime car jackings involving firearms and targeting of female and elderly populations.”

Police also warn that these thieves may have outstanding felony warrants (sometimes for murder), and are often carrying firearms, so citizens should never engage with them to defend property.

“We understand it can be frustrating having your property or vehicle stolen, but there is no guarantee the person committing the crime is a scared youth who will run when confronted,” Stavrides explained.

“We have encountered people committing these crimes, both juveniles and adults, with extensive criminal histories. They may be armed, and we often learn they have gang affiliations. It is best not to engage them, but to be a good witness and report the incident to the police immediately,” Stavrides said.

To prevent crimes of opportunity, like items being taken from entered vehicles or the theft of vehicles themselves, police advise vigilance, awareness, and common sense.

“The best [crime deterrence] tips are the simplest ones,” said Stavrides. “Be aware of your surroundings, lock your doors, remove valuables from your vehicle or place them out of sight, don’t leave your keys in your car, and never leave your car running unattended. The vast majority of vehicle thefts and burglaries we see are unlocked cars. These are often crimes of opportunity. In most cases, if your vehicle is locked, thieves will move on. A small inconvenience of preventative measures now may save you a larger inconvenience down the road.”

Police also advise that citizens maintain situational awareness, observe their surroundings, and trust their instincts.

“Trust your gut,” Stavrides concluded. “If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Things can escalate quickly. Be a good witness and contact the police as soon as possible.”

Jason Marchi is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jason at j.marchi@shorepublishing.com.

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