INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – IMPD is using a stealth approach to stop what it calls a growing problem in a part of town where thousands of people visit every day.
Investigators said car break-ins were on the rise this summer in the Castleton area along the 82nd Street corridor.
They said thieves are lurking in parking lots, but the good news is so are they.
In a part of town where people are known to spend money, it’s no surprise there’s a select few hoping to take advantage of them.
“Going in between cars, going down the aisles looking in and out of the cars,” said Chris Bailey, Commander of IMPD’s north district, as he described where those smash and grab criminals typically stalk their victims. He said they’ll peek through windows with hopes that a phone or other valuables have been left out in the open and added that sometimes they’ll watch for people to specifically place things in their front or back seat.
“We’ve seen it where we’ve had multiple cars hit in the same parking lot over a period of time,” he said. Commander Bailey added that the crimes weren’t happening in one specific area, but all over Castleton.
Because of that he put under cover officers in unmarked cars in August. They were tasked to weave in and out of shopping centers, restaurant parking lots and apartment complexes with hopes of catching thieves in the act.
Bailey said although they weren’t able to catch a thief, car break-in numbers dropped after the undercover detail. But there was an instance where the undercover officers happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“A radio broadcast came out of a theft from a jewelry inside the Castleton Square Mall,” said Commander Bailey.
He said the undercover officers pulled into the mall lot, spotted the suspect entering a car and tailed him until a uniformed officer could pull him over.
21-year-old Richard Kirk was arrested after police said he stole $15,000 worth of jewelry. Police said he also had an unlicensed handgun in his car.
“Had we not had those officers doing that undercover detail then this person would have gotten away at least in the short term,” he said.
IMPD would rather there be no crime to begin with. To make sure of that, they’re putting bright yellow reminders on car windshields. The fliers warn people if their purse was in plain view or if a car was left unlocked.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said shopper Noel Ibon. “Gives people an idea like ‘Hey, people are watching, people are patrolling.'”
The flier is not a ticket, just a warning. There’s also a line on the flier that will tell a driver if they did everything correctly by keeping items out of sight.
IMPD plans to continue undercover patrols. They also plan to have officers in squad cars, on foot and on bicycles working the same parking lots in the area to have a visible presence with hopes it will deter criminals.
Commader Bailey said the bike patrol officers already have the fliers but that more officers will be distributing them when the shopping season picks up in the fall.