‘Far from a victimless crime;’ Area law enforcement agencies team up to battle spike in car thefts

MONTGOMERY COUNTY — Law enforcement agencies in the Miami Valley have teamed up to tackle the uptick in cars being stolen in the area.

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The Grand Theft Auto Suppression Task Force is made up of law enforcement from Dayton, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Butler Township, Kettering, Huber Heights and more, according to Major Jason Hall with the Dayton Police Department. It’s designed to track down people stealing cars and return the vehicles to the owners.

Hall says in July police saw a “tremendous spike” in stolen vehicles.

“Early this summer, our city, our region and even throughout the country experienced a significant spike in crimes related to motor vehicle theft,” Hall said. “A lot of these crimes were related to the release of what we would call a novel method to steal vehicles on social media, particularly impacting two manufacturers— the Kias and the Hyundais.”

At this point in the year, Hall says the City of Dayton has had over 1,000 stolen vehicles.

“This is kind of an important milestone, because we have not been in this position since 2008,” Hall said.

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There has been a 61% increase in theft of motor vehicles in the City of Dayton compared to 2021, according to Hall.

Hall says Montgomery County has seen a 70% increase in motor vehicle thefts, the Trotwood Police Department has seen a 30% increase and the Kettering Police Department has seen a 152% increase.

Hall emphasized the seriousness of the crimes and how they can impact everyone.

“It goes well beyond the person who gets deprived of their vehicle who now has trouble making it to work, making it to a doctors appointment, making it to the grocery store,” Hall said. “It’s dangerous for law enforcement.”

Body camera video from the Dayton Police Department shows an attempted recovery of a stolen Kia earlier this month. The video shows the driver of the stolen vehicle nearly hitting an officer and fleeing.

“Far from a victimless crime,” Hall said. “We had one of our officers nearly struck by the vehicle, we had an innocent citizen in his vehicle which was struck and we had a cruiser struck.”

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said the crime should not be considered “joy riding.”

“There’s no joy to the family or the individuals who have lost their property, their insurance rates have rent up, it is called a felony,” Streck said.

The organized, county-wide unit uses intelligence and tactics to minimize the risk of stops and arrests.

On Oct. 18, the team was able to recover seven stolen cars and detained 12 people, Hall said.

Law enforcement officials say there are ways to help reduce auto theft, including always locking your doors, never leaving keys in or near your vehicle, closing widows completely and to consider installing a GPS tracking system.