CLEVELAND — Car thefts across Northeast Ohio haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office said teenagers are a big part of the problem, but almost all car theft cases from 2022 involving teens remain pending.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District teacher, Jane Rohfeld, drove a Kia and when she was leaving work, she noticed her worst fear had become a reality.
“Buses came to pick up students and my car was gone,” Rohfeld said. “It was there at 2:30 when I came back from lunch, there was a pile of glass, where my car had been.”
Since her car was stolen over a week ago, she said her life has been uprooted.
“It’s literally disrupted every part of my life and financially it’s killing me,” Rohfeld added.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office works alongside juvenile court to solve car theft cases. The age of offender's ranges from 12-years-old to adults.
“We do know last year the major of cases that were solved and presented to us involved juvenile offenders,” said Ryan Boaoch, the supervisor of the Special Crimes Unit.
Police haven’t found who stole Rohfeld’s car, but she hopes it wasn’t a student.
“Another teacher had her car stolen three months ago,” Rohfeld said. “Same exact thing.”
Boaoch added that finding these criminals has become increasingly challenging over the years.
“It takes law enforcement working together,” Boaoch said. “Several years ago, cases kind of occurred in one city. Now we’re seeing people going city, to city, to city.”
The prosecutor's office feels putting offenders behind bars is the best solution to slow down car thefts, but according to court documents obtained by News 5, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court still has over 80 pending car theft cases awaiting sentencing just from 2022.
When News 5 asked for an interview, they sent a statement.
Each jurist has youth charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as well as carjacking offenses pending on their dockets. The Court does not feel it is appropriate to comment on these pending cases and any potential dispositions. The Court recognizes the increase in these offenses, the community concern, and is committed to community safety. The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court is involved in discussions with community agencies and is committed to addressing these issues with the support of law enforcement and youth specific service providers.
Rohfeld feels enough isn’t being done in a timely fashion.
“When they found it [the car], the police officer said to me, 'Be prepared that if you get this fixed it will be stolen again,'” Rohfeld said. “We aren't even investigating these because there are so many being stolen, we are literally spending all day collecting cars.”
Rohfeld’s car was found damaged a couple of days ago and is now getting fixed in a shop. Besides the unknown if her offender will strike again, the financial burden that lies ahead is just as haunting.
“I can’t go to my work without worrying my car is going to be stolen when I get it back which will be may possibly June,” Rohfeld said. Meanwhile I am spending money to rent a car for two months that I can’t afford and it’s no fault of my own. My car was locked in an employee lot, in the middle of the day, while I'm teaching.”
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