Police departments collaborate to form new car theft task force
Car thefts are spiking across Connecticut, but a group of police chiefs is turning the tide.
Bridgeport and six suburban departments formed Operation Wingspan.
Since September, they have recovered 84 stolen cars and arrested 38 adults and seven juveniles.
The task force operates out of Bridgeport's Fusion Center, where it does surveillance and shares dozens of license plate readers.
"We have license plate readers throughout some of the areas in the city of Bridgeport that will be able to detect if that car has gone into our city," said acting Bridgeport Police Chief Rebeca Garcia.
One car stolen in Monroe was later used in a shooting in Bridgeport. The task force captured the suspect.
"We've seen multiple crimes solved -- not just stolen cars, not just cars broken into, but multiple serious crimes," said Trumbull Police Chief Michael Lombardo.
Spiking car thefts has become a contentious political issue. Republican state lawmakers are pushing A Better Way To A Safer Connecticut, which calls for holding youth suspects longer after an arrest, faster court appearances, and letting more teens be tried as adults. The plan also calls for more investment in crime prevention programs.
The ACLU of Connecticut calls the GOP plan a gear tactic that reverses a decade of criminal justice reforms.
"Prisons aren't healthy, whether they are explicitly labeled as a prison or not," said Claudine Fox, of ACLU Connecticut.
At Operation Wingspan, the chiefs see a revolving door of chronic criminals.
"There's no politics in this whatsoever. It's a problem. We're all here to address that," said Stratford Police Chief Joseph McNeil.
How to address the issue remains a political issue.
Federal COVID-19 relief funds are paying for Operation Wingspan, but those run out at the end of the year.