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Police investigate rash of vehicle thefts in city


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Playing it safe: Joe Urban goes through his car, which is parked in the driveway of his home in the Hampton Place neighborhood in Greenfield. Urban's has been among the 100 or so vehicles ransacked in the past two weeks. He%u2019s had electronics, CDs and change stolen. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Playing it safe: Joe Urban goes through his car, which is parked in the driveway of his home in the Hampton Place neighborhood in Greenfield. Urban's has been among the 100 or so vehicles ransacked in the past two weeks. He%u2019s had electronics, CDs and change stolen. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

The areas highlighted in pink show where vehicles have been targeted by thieves in recent weeks. (Brian Davis / Daily Reporter graphic)
The areas highlighted in pink show where vehicles have been targeted by thieves in recent weeks. (Brian Davis / Daily Reporter graphic)


Police need your help tracking down those responsible for upwards of 75 thefts from cars in recent weeks. If you’ve seen something suspicious or have information that might help police, call the Greenfield Police Department at (317) 477-4410.

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GREENFIELD — Stand in the garage, click the key fob, and wait for the beep.

Making sure his car is locked has been part of Joe Urban’s nightly routine since thieves rifled through his Honda six months ago while it was sitting in the driveway.

And yet, this week, Urban became a victim again.

The family thinks the thieves didn’t get away with much this time – some CDs and a handful of change – but there’s still some bickering about who accidentally left the car unlocked.

Greenfield police have been overwhelmed in recent weeks with calls from area residents who have woke up to find their cars ransacked overnight. Greenfield Police Chief John Jester estimates there have been 75 thefts from cars in the past two weeks alone. The majority of the thefts were from unlocked cars, though there has also been a rash of reports of windows shot out with what police believe is a BB gun.

Police have not yet confirmed whether the incidents are related.

In Urban’s case, it was an officer who knocked on his door to tell him there’d been a rash of thefts from cars in his neighborhood. One of his car doors was ajar, a sign it had been targeted.

Officers were going door to door after receiving a variety of calls from the same subdivision, Hampton Place, where Urban lives with his wife and their two children.

They looked for anything suspicious, including open doors, and told owners to contact police if they discovered anything missing.

Urban said his family had made a concerted effort to keep everything locked and valuables tucked away since the first theft last summer, when someone made off with a GPS device and iPod.

And though the thieves didn’t take much property this time around, they did steal something equally important – the family’s sense of security.

Urban and his wife have a 9-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, and the incident has rattled them, he said.

“The car is right outside the house, and so, what stops them from walking another 20 feet and checking doorknobs?” he said.

A variety of housing additions have been hit, including Sawmill, Weston Village, Liberty Shores and Meridian Springs on the city’s west side and Indigo Springs, Hampton Place and McKenzie Glen on the city’s east side.

The thieves appear to be making quick work of it, targeting unlocked cars and making a fast grab of whatever’s readily available before moving on.

The thieves have left many car doors ajar, likely to avoid slamming them and alerting someone.

Jester suspects there are even more victims than reports.

“I think a lot of people are saying, ‘It’s not going to be covered by insurance,’” he said.

But there’s danger in not reporting, even if the items taken are small, said Detective Lt. Randy Ratliff, head of the department’s investigations unit.

If a suspect is caught with someone else’s property, the only way to prosecute them successfully is to prove the items were stolen.

Without a police report already in hand, that’s next to impossible.

“We have caught people in the recent past who had the property on them, but the report was never filed,” Ratliff said. “They admitted they were out, breaking into cars. If we don’t have a victim, we don’t have a crime.”

Residents can do a variety of things to protect themselves, namely locking their cars, Jester said.

“They’re walking around; they’re feeling door handles,” he said. “If the door’s locked, they’re moving on.”

The public can also aid police by staying alert and calling 911 to report suspicious activity.

Even someone’s dogs barking in the middle of the night can be a sign something’s not right, Jester said.

Neighbors know better than anyone whether something is out of place, and police are counting on them for help identifying a suspect.

“Somebody has to see these people,” Ratliff said. “There’s too much of it going on.”

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