The Suffolk County Police Department has been reminding residents to lock parked vehicles as the number of reported thefts has been on the rise since the beginning of the year.
Reports of stolen motor vehicle thefts increased 21.3 percent and thefts from a motor vehicle are up more than 30 percent during the first four-and-a-half months of 2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019.
Many victims of vehicle thefts have not only left cars unlocked, but also left key fobs in plain view, allowing potential car thieves to easily enter the vehicle and with the press of a button, start the engine, and drive away.
The area of Hampton Bays south of Montauk Highway just west of Shinnecock Bay and Canoe Place Road has seen of flurry of break-ins of late.
On May 22, shortly before 11 PM, an investigation into a string of larcenies from vehicles came to a head with the arrest of Richard J. Kruger, 26, of Mastic Beach, who was observed by officers entering a vehicle in a driveway near the intersection of Palo Alto Drive and Westerly Court in Hampton Bays.
When a Southampton Town patrol officer approached Kruger, he attempted to flee, police said, but officers caught up with him. Kruger was found to be in possession of items stolen from the vehicle.
Kruger was ultimately charged with 14 misdemeanor counts for his alleged role in ongoing pattern criminal activity in the area of Woodridge Road, Lynncliff Road, Palo Alto Drive, and subsequent side streets and cul-de-sacs. He was charged with eight counts of petit larceny, three counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the seventh degree, resisting arrest, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, as he allegedly had a quantity of Xanax in his possession without a prescription.
Southampton detectives are still investigating multiple thefts from vehicles in the Hampton Bays area. Kruger may face additional charges.
Anyone with information on similar crimes is asked to contact the Southampton Town Detective Division at 631-702-2230.
“Always lock your car doors, it’s that simple,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “The increase in thefts of and from vehicles is a direct result of owners not taking the extra step to ensure their cars are secured. It can make the difference between becoming a victim or not.”
Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.