BRUNSWICK, Ohio — A warning from police about violence associated with car thefts, it’s escalating.
From Bay Village to Brunswick, Westlake to Willoughby, police are seeing an upward trend in car thefts.
Police said thieves are targeting unlocked vehicles in the early morning hours.
“They're occurring throughout Northeast Ohio,” said Lake County Sheriff Frank Leonbruno.
In at least a dozen communities, cars are being stolen from suburban streets and driveways.
“People are coming out of the inner city, they are youth, young people coming up in a carload to residential neighborhoods searching for cars to steal,” Leonbruno said.
Now, there is concern the young thieves are shifting to violence. There have been two incidents in Lake County that have turned violent. One woman was attacked, another resident carjacked at gunpoint. The sheriff is so concerned he took to Facebook to issue a warning to residents.
It is the same story in Medina County. Brunswick police have investigated 13 stolen cars in just a couple of months.
“The group is brazen, not much regard for the safety of anyone else,” said Brunswick Police Detective Chris Scafidi.
The cars have been used in other violent crimes, according to Scafidi.
According to police, the groups of youth are coming into suburban areas, fanning out into neighborhoods, trying vehicle doors until they find one that is unlocked.
But, now something new. “If the car is unlocked, they’re hitting the garage door opener, if there is a nice car in there they're taking that,” said Scafidi.
The thieves are sometimes going into homes of people while they sleep after opening the garage with the opener left in an unlocked car outside the home, according to police.
Police issuing a reminder. “Please lock your cars, take your valuables inside, your garage door openers,” said Scafidi. “If every vehicle was locked this would stop tomorrow because there would be nothing for them to take."
Several police departments from several different counties are working together and sharing information. Now, the FBI is helping in these cases.
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