WESTCHESTER COUNTY - Westchester County officials are trying to get people to lock their cars after a dramatic spike in auto thefts. The warning comes as authorities warn that packs of teens are driving through neighborhoods looking for easy targets.
“They’ll come with three to seven people with a view that each person will steal a car while they’re here, and so we’re getting hammered,” says Westchester County Deputy District Attorney Steven Vandervelden.
Car thieves have been targeting affluent Westchester County villages and towns like Scarsdale, Rye Brook, Sleepy Hollow, Mamaroneck, and Irvington since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Police say the thefts are up more than 60% countywide. In Scarsdale, the numbers are much higher. There was only one car stolen in the first eight months of last year. This year there have been 21 taken. That's a 2,000% increase. Rye Brook reported a 1,200% increase, going from 1 car stolen to 13.
Countywide car thefts have hit 540 for the year compared to 338 in the same period in 2019.
And authorities say the thieves in many of the incidents are teenagers.
"Those cars are being used in robberies. They're being used in drug transactions. We've had cars unfortunately that have ended up striking individuals in Connecticut," said Vandervelden.
The problem is not just in Westchester. Suffolk County on Long Island has also reported a big spike in vehicle thefts.
In addition to the vehicle thefts, police are also seeing a rise in vehicle "grab-and-go" thefts, where thieves help themselves to valuables left in the car.
"These are crimes of opportunity," Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino says.
Now, the district attorney has launched a campaign urging residents to lock their cars and take the key fob with them. It's a simple step that a lot of people have been ignoring.