By Maddie Clark
A 16-year-old male was taken into custody on the morning of Nov. 6 in connection to a string of thefts from autos throughout Springfield Township.
The suspect was seen checking car door handles along Springfield Avenue by a local resident early in the morning. He is also likely connected to 16 thefts from autos that occurred on the night of Friday, Nov. 2.
Lt. Lee Allan with the Springfield Township Police Department hopes that this arrest will put an end to the rash in neighborhood thefts.
Springfield, however, is not the only area that has fallen victim to this increase in vehicle burglaries.
Chestnut Hill and Cheltenham Township have also seen a rise in thefts from autos.
Lt. William Schmid, of the 14th Police District, told the Local last month that they had increased patrols in Chestnut Hill and had obtained surveillance video of suspects in what Schmid said he believed were part of a sophisticated group of thieves.
Cheltenham Township has seen a similar rash of thefts.
According to Lt. John Slavin of the Cheltenham Township Police Department, there were more than 20 thefts from autos between Oct. 20 and 22, a dramatic increase from the seven or eight thefts that occurred during a township soccer game in September.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” said Slavin as a large number of vehicles are often hit in a small time period.
Lt. William Schmid with the 14th Police district also stated that as long as people leave their prized possessions exposed in their cars, they are going to continue to be victimized by thieves.
Even leaving something as minute as an empty duffle bag on your seat cushion could make your vehicle a target, said Schmid.
Unlocked cars are also a gateway for burglaries as individuals will simply check all the car door handles on a given street, as was the case in Springfield.
Sometimes people will even find the key in the ignition and just steal the entire car, said Allan.
“I’m astonished that people leave their cars unlocked, let alone their key in the ignition,” Allan added.
Though a suspect has been arrested in Springfield, the source of thievery is still unknown in Chestnut Hill and Cheltenham.
Could this 16-year-old male be tied to the crimes in all three townships?
“I never want to speculate,” said Allan, however, it is possible that the suspect is affiliated with other individuals since he is not a resident in any of these neighborhoods.
Slavin believes that this increase in thefts from vehicles could be tied to the current opioid crisis.
“There’s desperation out there, people are feeling desperate,” said Slavin.
Desperation in the air it seems as great lengths are being taken to grab as little as coin change from a console. Windows are even being broken, and anything ranging from money to laptops or a pair of gloves is fair game.
Slavin even recalled a time when he found his car broken into after coming back from night classes at La Salle University. It cost Slavin more money to repair his shattered window than to replace the coin change and the gloves that were stolen from his vehicle.
Schmid, on the other hand, believes a “sophisticated group” of thieves are targeting neighborhoods such as Chestnut Hill due to their more affluent status.
In order to reduce this outbreak in break ins, however, the public needs to report these crimes as soon as they happen.
Since the string of October thefts, the Cheltenham Police Dept. posted to their Facebook page on Oct. 23 in order to warn residents against the thefts, as well as provide information on where to report them. The Springfield P.D. is also heavily active on their Facebook as well.
Based on the thoughts from Allan, Slavin and Schmid, the problem with these crimes is that days can go by before they are even reported, thus infringing on the police’s ability to intervene.
“People don’t even pay attention to car alarms anymore,” said Slavin. “We’re trying to get the word out.”
If you’d like to report a theft from auto, you can call the Cheltenham station at 215-885-1600 , the Springfield station at 215-836-1601, or your local police department. You can also submit an anonymous report at www.cheltenhamtownship.org or www.springfieldmontco.org/police