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Auto theft recovery increases

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Within one week in May, the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department recovered four stolen vehicles after a high-speed chase across multiple counties, two foot pursuits and a traffic stop.

After sheriff deputies caught two women with a stolen vehicle out of Indianapolis in the early hours of May 29, the total for the month grew to at least six, nearly eclipsing last year’s total number of stolen vehicles according to HCSD records. One suspect was even armed with a concealed handgun, according to court records.

“That’s a large number over a short period of time, and that is not common,” Sheriff Chris Newton said. “That just goes to show that this stuff is going around. It’s happening right here. It’s happening all the time.”

Newton attributes the high success rate to his officers following their training, like checking plates to ensure they’re valid and looking out for warning signs, along with making traditional traffic stops when warranted. Newton said his experience has taught him that thieves often disregard multiple laws in their attempts to steal vehicles.

“We’re getting those people off of our streets and keeping them out of Huntington County, and that’s a good sign,” he said. “It reduces the crime in our community when our deputies are out there patrolling the road.”

One foot pursuit lasted nearly three hours as sheriff deputies used drones, a K9 and multiple agencies to surround the perimeter of a crime scene near Andrews.

“If you’re willing to run from the police, we’re going to catch you,” Newton said. “If there’s someone who runs from us, we’re going to stay out there because they’re obviously a hazard to everybody else until they get caught.”

Newton said he’s impressed with how well the new recruits are doing while patrolling the road, and he said the entire force is being aggressive with their pursuit to curb crime.

Even though DUI cases take a minimum of three hours to complete, Chief Deputy Chad Hammel says, the officers aren’t afraid to work overtime to do a thorough job on the investigation.

In 2018, HCSD arrested 86 people for driving under the influence, according to 2018 Huntington County crime statistics.

“It’s not a simple as oh here’s an alleged crime, I’m going to throw this person in jail and now it’s time to go home,” Hammel explained. “The investigation and man hours is really kind of unbelievable for what it takes to put these cases together for prosecution.”

Newton recently asked council for more officers to patrol the roads, and he said these recent events illustrate why he is seeking more patrolmen.

“It takes time doing all of this stuff, and somebody’s got to be out on the road while they’re doing their investigations,” Newton said.

Council approved two full-time officers for the HCSD payroll, but Newton is seeking two more officers as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Newton said he’s confident his department will remain aggressive.

All of the vehicles recovered have been from surrounding counties, and Newton said he doesn’t know why they are entering or driving through Huntington County. However, he hopes their arrests send a message.

“Huntington county is really cracking down,” he said. “Maybe these people will bypass huntington county and avoid us all together.”