NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Towns in central Connecticut and across the state have experienced a dramatic increase in car thefts and burglaries in 2020, a trend officials have blamed on the pandemic but also on laws that restrict police from engaging in pursuits related to property crimes.
The New Britain Herald reported that car burglaries in the city more than doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. Berlin saw a four-fold increase in the number of stolen vehicles, and thefts from autos have more than doubled in Newington, prompting town officials to write to state legislators for help. Southington reported 93 stolen vehicles in 2020 compared to 41 in 2019; car burglaries shot up from 114 to 410, the newspaper reported.
Newington Police Chief Stephen Clark said the increase is unlike anything he’s seen in 35 years of policing. He said car break-ins often are committed by juveniles who know what they can get away with.
“They know all they have to do is get back in the car and we can’t pursue them,” Clark told the Herald. “We’re seeing it frequently, and they’re aware of that.”
In Bristol, Deputy Police Chief Richard Guerrera said most car thefts result from owners leaving their keys or key fob in their vehicles.
“It usually comes in sprees,” Guerrera told the Herald. “You usually get 10 to 15 cars being broken into in one section of town and then you won’t see anything for a week or more.”
A state police task force reported last summer that rather than using them for joy-riding, car thieves were stealing cars in the suburbs and using them to commit other crimes, then abandoning them in cities like Hartford.
Gov. New Lamont and law enforcement officials from several cities held a videoconference last month to address an overall rise in juvenile crime during the pandemic, attributed to teens having more free time due to remote school and canceled after-school activities.