STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Car thieves from Brooklyn and the Bronx consider Staten Island an easy target, and theyre traveling by any means necessary to get here.
Every time we catch someone, another two show up, a Staten Island law enforcement source said. This is what were dealing with every night.
A surge in grand larceny auto incidents over the past few weeks on Staten Island has mirrored crime statistics across the city, while most other crimes have fallen drastically amid a citywide shutdown to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Police responded to 20 incidents on Staten Island over a four-week period from March 29 to April 26 after responding to about 40 incidents over the first three months of the year. Last April, police investigated about a dozen incidents.
The NYPD has seen a 31% percent uptick in the five boroughs so far this year compared to the same period in 2019, as well as a recent surge of incidents.
According to a written statement from the NYPD, about half of the vehicles reported stolen so far this year have been recovered by police.
JOY RIDES, 7-ELEVEN SHOPPING SPREES
Sources say larceny suspects who reside outside Staten Island travel by train, bus and ferry in search of unlocked vehicles and potentially valuable possessions inside of them.
Typically, the suspects are teenagers and young adults traveling in groups, looking to jump in an unlocked vehicle and take it for a spin across New York City, police sources said.
In some cases, the license plate is flagged the next night crossing over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge back into Staten Island, where suspects use stolen vehicles to target other cars on the East and South shores.
Other times, the vehicle is tracked to a neighborhood in Brooklyn, where it has been dumped.
Items stolen from vehicles in recent months have included cash, cell phones, laptops and credit cards.
Theyll use a credit card to spend like $20 at 7-Eleven for a few sodas," one source said.
Some law enforcement experts have speculated the recent surge in stolen cars could be due in part to the citywide shutdown, leaving some suspects with less to do and more vehicles parked in driveways for extended periods of time.
There have been instances where individuals have targeted areas where cars appear to not be used," an NYPD spokeswoman said Thursday.
IT FEELS LIKE WERE GETTING LAUGHED AT
Earlier this month, three NYPD officers were congratulated by top brass for arrests involving a report of a stolen vehicle on the South Shore and several car break-ins.
But despite several vehicle recoveries and arrests, often the same defendants are spotted by police carrying out another vehicle-related theft days or, in some cases, hours later.
In January, a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, man was arrested and released three times in three weeks for allegedly stealing items from parked vehicles on Staten Island.
Evgeny Belov, 21, faces charges including petit larceny and unauthorized use of a vehicle; he is due in Richmond County Criminal Court on July 29, records show.
Leadership within the NYPD has pinned repeat offenders in part on bail reform laws, which now prohibit pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.
Last year, we were locking them up and putting them away," an officer on Staten Island recently told the Advance/SILive.com. This year, it feels like were getting laughed at."
Defense attorneys with the Legal Aid Society advocated for bail reform, and have stood in opposition to Cuomos recent push to roll it back.
A HOT BED
Suspects charged in connection with car thefts and other auto-related larcenies have told arresting officers that Staten Island has become a hot spot for thieves from neighborhoods outside the borough, including East New York and the Bronx, due to the abundance of unlocked cars parked on the street or in driveways.
But there also are Staten Islanders on the North Shore whom police have come to know as repeat offenders, a police source said.
Making things even harder for investigators is the current requirement to wear a face covering in public due to coronavirus, making it nearly impossible for officials to identify suspects captured on surveillance using stolen credit cards at gas stations or restaurants.
GLA TURNED HOMICIDE?
Police are investigating whether one or multiple suspects were inside a stolen SUV involved in a fatal crash Saturday night in Annadale.
The 2018 Lexus allegedly was traveling in the wrong direction when it slammed into a 2012 Ford SUV, killing a 32-year-old female and injuring a 35-year-old male.
Everything happened so fast, and [officers] were just focused on the girl," said a source familiar with investigation. The poor girl was ejected from the car.
The crash and a massive police search that followed sent what typically is a quiet neighborhood into a panic, as multiple neighbors reported seeing a suspect hopping fences to flee the scene.
As of Thursday, that investigation remained ongoing.
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