NAUGATUCK — Police warned citizens to be vigilant as opportunistic car thieves are on the prowl.
Naugatuck Police Department spokesman Bryan Cammarata said between June 1 and Tuesday morning 22 cars have been reported stolen in Naugatuck. He said the department typically receives between three and five reports of stolen cars a month and some of those turn out to be someone who took a family member’s car without permission.
The majority of the 22 cars stolen since June have been crimes of opportunity. The cars were stolen after their owners left their cars unattended in a parking lot. The cars were running or the doors were unlocked with the key in the ignition, Cammarata said.
Many of the thefts have occurred from the parking lots of gas stations or convenience stores, Cammarata said. However, there have been some thefts from private driveways as well, he said.
Area car thieves have been observed on surveillance footage hanging around in gas stations, convenience stores and public parking lots waiting for an opportunity to take vehicles when they are left unattended, he said.
One recent theft occurred Monday shortly before noon at the Cumberland Farms on North Main Street.
Surveillance footage shows a white Mercedes pull up alongside a Jeep Cherokee parked unoccupied, unlocked, not running with its keys in the ignition. A suspect exits the Mercedes and gets into the Jeep and within less than 30 seconds both cars leave the parking lot towards Route 8 north.
Cammarata said prior to the theft the Mercedes is seen driving through the parking lot several times, presumably staking out vehicles.
The thefts aren’t just a problem in Naugatuck. Cammarata said similar thefts are happening throughout the Valley and greater Waterbury area. He said many of the stolen cars are resurfacing in Waterbury and police believe the thefts are all related.
Cammarata said there are so many different suspects stealing the cars and cars being used by the suspects that there is no particular car or person for people to watch out for.
“The cars are constantly changing,” he said.
The thieves aren’t targeting any particular cars either, he said. The thieves are just seizing opportunities to steal the cars, he said.
Cammarata said police have developed some leads in the thefts and made some arrests.
On Aug. 2 two Naugatuck men were arrested after being pulled over in a stolen car.
Jacob Sperling, 19, of 58 Anderson St., and Tod Turner, 34, of 59 School St., were arrested at about 9 p.m. after a motor vehicle investigation on North Main Street. During the investigation, police reported, it was determined the car was reported stolen from Waterbury.
Turner, who was driving the car, was charged with larceny in the third degree. Turner was given a court date of Aug. 5 to appear at Waterbury Superior Court and held on a $5,000 surety bond.
Sperling, who was a passenger in the car, was charged with conspiracy at larceny in the third degree. Sperling was given a court date of Aug. 8 to appear at Waterbury Superior Court and released on a promise to appear.
Cammarata said the stolen car was connected to the thefts occurring in the area.
Police are asking residents to be conscious of their surroundings and to keep an eye out for any cars just hanging around gas stations. If they see anything suspicious, Cammarata said, people should call police.
“We’re asking the public to not leave their doors open,” Cammarata said.
Cammarata said his biggest fear is that a parent will leave their child in a car when they run into a store quickly and the car is stolen with the child inside.
Police reminded citizens to never leave their keys in an unattended car, even while running a quick errand and to never attach a tag with their name and address to a key ring. If the keys are lost or stolen, the tag will lead the thief directly to their car and your home.
Also, avoid leaving a car unattended in public parking lots for an extended period of time. A car is five times more likely to be stolen from an unattended lot than from the street or an attended lot, police said.
Valuables should be locked in the trunk away from view.
People should immediately notify police if their car is stolen, and have their license plate number, vehicle make, model, color and year, and vehicle identification number available.