The suburbs of central Connecticut are now the “hot spot” for car thefts, while authorities in nearly every major city are seeing fewer vehicles stolen, according to a preliminary report released Thursday to the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.
Committee members including Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, called for an examination of car thefts and juvenile car theft arrests a few weeks ago after a lengthy public hearing on HB 7332, which would allow courts to automatically transfer juveniles charged with committing a car theft to adult court based on their criminal history.
The issue has pitted juvenile justice advocates against police, who say their towns are being whacked with an increasing wave of car thefts that they believe have escalated since the state raised the age for youth to be classified as “juveniles” to 17 in 2012.
Since then, suburbs have been increasingly plagued with car thefts, especially unlocked vehicles with key fobs left inside the car.
Car theft decreased in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, and New Haven by more than 38 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to the report drafted by Ken Barone, project manager at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University.
At the same time, car thefts are up by close to 21 percent in the state’s suburbs with populations up to 25,000. The highest concentration of car thefts has moved from the New Haven area to the Interstate 91 and 84 corridors in the central Connecticut suburbs, Barone said.
About 55 percent of the people arrested for car theft in Glastonbury are under the age of 18, said Glastonbury Police Chief Marshall Porter, who is on the committee. “We have a small group of juveniles committing 90 percent of the crimes.”
Barone wants to cull information on where the cars are ending up after the vehicles are stolen. But several committee members wanted to collect data on what was happening in a kid’s life when he opts to steal the vehicle.
“Locking them up is not the answer,” said Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven. “Let’s find out why they are choosing to do bad things.”