Southington police say the number of vehicle thefts and burglaries are down while the number of arrests has increased, both locally and regionally. That development is due to an effort specifically developed to target those crimes.
At a recent Town Council meeting, police officials reported the results of the town’s auto theft task force, which was launched in February 2021. Master Sgt. Nathan Boislard said auto crimes have been a statewide problem.
With the formation of the auto crimes task force, better coordination with area departments and new investigative approaches, police significantly reduced this type of crime.
Here are the statistics: 41 cars were stolen in 2019; that number jumped to 89 in 2020; in 2021, the number dropped to 64. As for thefts from cars: there were 113 in 2019 increasing to 412 in 2020; that number was reduced to 215 in 2021.
Arrests have increased. While there were only six arrests in 2020, police charged 27 individuals, mostly juveniles, in relation to 66 auto crimes last year and police say more arrest warrants are in the works.
The police work earned well-deserved praise from the Town Council and the suggestion that Southington’s approach might serve as a model for other towns.
“I’m astounded at the statistics,” said Michael DelSanto, a Town Council member. “What we’re doing is working.”
Southington has four full-time officers dedicated to the task force as well as others who contribute time to investigations. Auto crimes also prompted the creation of neighborhood watches around town that provide police with information on potential perpetrators or footage of thefts.
“A majority of the vehicles stolen in Southington are either recovered in Hartford or are used in a violent crime in Hartford,” Boislard said, adding. “We realized early on this was a regional problem.” Local detectives coordinate with Hartford police, sharing evidence they collect, such as DNA, fingerprints and video surveillance. This collaborative work has led to arrests.
Southington’s task force has attracted attention from nearby towns, which are considering something similar. Two Cheshire police officers are shadowing the task force with an eye to using some of those techniques in that town.
“It’s great that this is a model for other towns,” said Val DePaolo, a town councilor.
The results Southington police are getting are impressive. These types of crimes are upsetting and disruptive to people whose vehicles are tampered with or taken. And it appears stolen vehicles can end up involved in more serious, violent offences. Stepping up enforcement early on is showing itself to be an effective deterrent.