An uptick in vehicle thefts on the west side of Dayton has police forming partnerships with gas stations, utilizing a “bait” car and issuing warnings to victims and thieves.
“This is a preventable crime,” Dayton Sgt. John Riegel, part of the police department’s West Patrol Operations Division Community Response Team, told News Center 7 this evening, directing that comment to victims who have left their vehicles running — mainly at gas stations.
To the thieves Riegel said are mainly juveniles roughly from the low teens through 19 years of age, “every car they get in may be a car operated by the Dayton Police Department.”
It’s against the law to leave vehicles unattended and running, the sergeant said, and the police department has been successful in catching thieves through the use of its “bait” car.
The “bait” car, used by law enforcement agencies in cities throughout the United States, is operated remotely by police and can be shut off at any time.
Riegel said the department estimates that 70 percent of the vehicle thefts that have occurred on the city’s west side in recent years involve vehicles that were left running — at gas stations, where a person runs in to pay for gas or they just want to get into a warm vehicle.
This uptick in thefts is different from juveniles simply taking off on joyrides, the sergeant said.
Nowadays, these juveniles are keeping stolen vehicles for days or weeks at a time, using them to commit other crimes and them leaving them trashed or damaged, he said.
Riegel said the department’s west ops division also has partnered with gas stations and has posted signage warning people not to leave their vehicles running, that it’s illegal to do so.
“It’s unlikely we will be issuing citations, but warnings will be given,” he said.
The vehicle theft problem is a citywide issue, he said, but the west side of town is getting hit worse.