BRISTOL – The Bristol Police Department is taking part in the Greater Hartford Regional Auto Theft Task Force and is also taking steps to educate the public and area youth further as to the hazards of motor vehicle theft.
“There are results here showing that what they’re doing is working,” Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said. “We’re part of the capitol region and it has seen a spike in stolen motor vehicles. It’s been affecting different communities in different ways. Some of the trend is that stolen vehicle thefts in major cities have gone down but they’ve gone up in the surrounding communities.”
Gould said a lot of vehicles are being reported stolen in the greater Hartford area, but may be recovered inside Hartford itself.
“When (law enforcement) was collecting this data we saw the need to regionalize,” the chief said. “It’s affecting all of us. We saw an opportunity to do a force multiplier and to start this task force which would address the issue in all of our communities.”
The chief said task force organization discussions kicked into gear in September. He said Bristol had not seen the same numbers of crime as some other communities but joining the task force was good, proactive policing. Despite this, one vehicle stolen is one vehicle too many, he said.
“If we can get ahead of that and dedicate resources that will end up helping solve this issue overall in the capitol region, it’s certainly going to impact us positively here in the City of Bristol,” Gould said.
A Bristol vehicle was stolen as recently as Nov. 12 before being located by the Bristol task force member in Hartford.
As part of a multifaceted approach to working against motor vehicle theft, the Bristol Police Department acquired around $35,000 in the form of relief funding from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. It has dedicated that funding to providing a full-time officer to the task force and has also utilized it to help start the Strengthening Teen Engagement with Police (STEP) program. The program is meant to create stronger relationships between area youth and law enforcement as well as to steer at-risk youth away from the dangers of crime.
Gould said a majority of auto theft crime in Connecticut is being committed by young adults and if law enforcement can form a relationship with them earlier in life, it can hopefully persuade them to make better choices.
Many crimes involving motor vehicles are crimes of opportunity, he continued. Officers are often finding that would-be offenders are testing car doors to look for valuables or jumping into running vehicles with the keys still in the ignition.
Since the task force was first created, Gould said it has recovered 57 vehicles, made 21 stolen vehicle arrests, recovered eight firearms, served 27 warrants and made 18 additional arrests as part of investigations.
In 2018, 107 vehicles were stolen in Bristol which averaged out to around .3 vehicles stolen per day. The chief said 87 were stolen in 2019 which averaged out to around .2 per day. In 2020, there were roughly 106 vehicles stolen which averaged out to .3 per day. In 2021, year to date as of Nov. 23, Gould said Bristol has had 84 stolen vehicles.
Gould encouraged residents to “harden their targets” when referring to personal belongings and vehicles. Making it harder for would-be thieves makes it less likely for an individual to lose their hard earned property.
Residents should always lock their doors, no matter how short a trip might be into a building. Gould said it wasn’t uncommon for area residents to lose personal items through a quick grab out of an unlocked vehicle. Some motor vehicles in the area have even been stolen because an individual only took three minutes to drop something off inside a building but left their vehicle unlocked and running.
Residents are encouraged by law enforcement to keep a clean car as even a set of cheap sunglasses could look tempting to someone looking to acquire them. This includes hiding electronics, cords and other signs of potentially valuable items. Vehicles should keep all windows rolled up and their car alarms engaged. Placing items in a covered trunk is also a commonly recommended tactic by law enforcement.
Gould also recommends parking in a well-lit and visible area. If a citizen witnesses a crime, they should contact 911 and share as much information as possible about the event in question.