It’s precisely contrary to how you might reasonably expect it to go, yet Oak Park police said Monday that the beginning of a spat of auto thefts and vehicle burglaries appears to have coincided with the start of the new school year. Instead of seeing a reduction in teen related problems, September saw a much higher than usual rate of vehicle thefts and burglaries, many involving teens. There were a total of 19 vehicle thefts through the morning of Oct. 1, and 24 total garage burglaries or attempts.

Deputy Chief Robert Scianna said that his department, which arrested four juveniles last week in three separate incidents, is a bit baffled by the current series of events.

“I don’t know what it is about school starting, but since (then), we’ve had an auto theft problem.”

Seven cars were stolen in Oak Park last week alone, with two other attempts failing. Police arrested four juvenile males, and over that same period, recovered five vehicles, all in Chicago, including two cars stolen last week.

Scianna said that the cars are primarily being used for joy riding, saying, “They’re not selling them to chop shops.”

The afternoon of Oct. 2 police arrested one of several occupants in a vehicle after being alerted by a citizen regarding a possible vehicle theft. Later that night two youths were arrested after foot chases on the West Side and charged with criminal trespass to a Buick Century reported stolen earlier that day. Its rear window was broken and the steering column “peeled” to start the ignition.

None of the juveniles were caught actually breaking into and stealing any of the vehicles, so they have all been charged with various misdemeanors, including criminal trespass to motor vehicle and possession of a stolen vehicle.

The burglaries, said Scianna, are a different story. Those he said appear to be, for the most part, crimes of opportunity.

Last week alone 10 vehicles were burgled and three had items stolen off them. Most of the burglaries involved smashing side windows, as did several criminal damage to property incidents that police say were the result of failed burglary attempts.

The burglaries continue to involve the theft of cash and smaller, more easily saleable items such as CDs and DVDs, laptop computers and cell phones, as well as a few in-dash stereos. In all but one instance, police say, the thefts appeared to be crimes of opportunity. In that instance, thieves pulled open the door and trunk locks on a Toyota Tercel parked in the 1100 block of South Lombard that had been targeted for its expensive in-dash stereo/CD system and 400 CDs.

Scianna said that his department has had a tighter tactical focus during the overnight hours when the majority of vehicle thefts have occurred.

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