While many have tried to find positive ways to distract themselves during the statewide quarantine, some are using it as an excuse to engage in illegal activities which some local officals believe has led to an uptick in car thefts and overall crime in the state.
At the last Town Council meeting, Councilor Tim Slocum brought up the issue during Town Manager Sean Kimball’s manager’s report, pointing out that the monthly crime data compiled by the Cheshire Police Department seemed high.
“I noticed the statistics are way up on motor vehicle theft, and I also know that we’re all aware of that. I don’t know if that’s COVID related or if that’s just become a new ‘fun and games’ thing,” commented Slocum. “I can also see motor vehicle arrests and motor vehicle warnings way way down by a mile, and I assume that is all to do with COVID because of not wanting to approach people in an abundance of caution.”
According to Chief Neil Dryfe, motor vehicle theft has been on the rise, but this trend is something the entire state is experiencing.
“Auto thefts are up significantly (in Cheshire), from eight at this time last year to 23 as of June 30,” Dryfe confirmed. “This continues to be a statewide problem that has been reported on extensively.”
According to Dryfe, of the 23 cars stolen last month, two were cases of vehicles being used without permission, and four were cases surrounding motorcycles or dirt bikes, leaving 17 cars in total that were taken from Cheshire residents. The vehicles were all left unlocked, and 15 of the 17 had keys or the key fob located inside the vehicle.
The stolen car problem has been a popular issue discussed on the Cheshire Community Forum since before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Connecticut, and Dryfe feels it is still too early to tell if the rise in theft is due to the outbreak.
“I don’t know yet if there is any correlation between the higher number of thefts this year and COVID-19. “There was an article in the Hartford Courant which indicated that one auto theft task force recovered 154 stolen cars in six months. The stolen car issue predates the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Dryfe also mentioned that of the cars that were stolen, only two still remain unaccounted for. The CPD has recovered seven cars from Waterbury, three in Hartford, two in Southington, and one each in Shelton, Hamden, and New Britain.
While Dryfe had no commentary on whether he believes COVID-19 is responsible for a general uptick in crime, the data supports that 2020 has had a higher crime rate than 2019.