Police/FireThe Examiner

Residents, Town Officials Seek Answers Over North Castle Car Larcenies

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Several North Castle residents in the hamlet of Banksville pressed town officials last week to step up patrols or introduce other strategies to protect homeowners against a rash of car thefts on residential properties.

The pleas by residents at last Wednesday evening’s North Castle Town Board meeting came one night after Smith Farm Road resident Joseph Santullo had one of his cars stolen out of his home’s driveway, and a neighbor of his saw that a thief unsuccessfully tried to enter her family’s car on her property but it was locked.

Santullo and several other residents called on the board for help either through a greater patrol presence or installing license plate readers in key areas of town. Some of the more rural sections in North Castle that are close to the Connecticut border appear to have been particularly targeted because criminals know police aren’t going to chase them into a neighboring jurisdiction, residents noted.

“I’m concerned about my kids getting hurt by one of these thugs carrying a knife or a gun over a damn car,” Santullo said. “That’s what I’m really worried about.”

He said he hasn’t seen a police patrol on his block in more than three years.

Resident Jen Clark, who noticed an unidentified subject appear on her ring camera at 10:18 p.m. last Tuesday trying the door handles on her car, said while she agrees residents should lock their car doors and take their keys, the brazenness of the thieves walking deep onto residential properties is disturbing. A short time later, Clark learned that Santullo’s car had been stolen.

“They know they can just walk around our town, checking our doors, eventually they will find a car door open,” Clark said. “Why do they think it’s okay to walk around our town checking our doors on private property? Why do they think that’s okay? Because nothing is being done about it.”

Supervisor Joseph Rende, who also lives in Banksville and previously had the contents of his car stolen while in his driveway, said there have been in-depth conversations with the police department about the options available to the town.

“One of the things we talked about is to put in the necessary resources to get more plate readers…because that’s really the only way we’re going to catch these individuals, and in my conversation with the chief, we have found other communities that have put in some of these plate readers had some success in their own communities,” Rende said. “They’ve been successful in at least catching some of them.”

Rende also told the residents that car thefts have reached near epidemic proportions not just in North Castle but in many communities throughout Westchester.

Police Chief Peter Simonsen said the most effective way for residents to protect their cars is to lock the doors and take the key. On certain late model cars, in particular some luxury cars, if a vehicle isn’t locked there are certain features signaling that the doors are unlocked, he said.

For example, on some vehicles, if the sideview mirrors don’t fold in, it means the doors are unlocked, Rende noted.

While Simonsen didn’t have statistics for car thefts and the illegal entering of cars readily available, he said about 95 percent of those incidents in town had unlocked car doors with many of those still with the key fob inside. The town is trying to convince people to lock their cars and take their keys.

“These are crimes of opportunity,” Simonsen said. “If you give them the opportunity, they will take the opportunity.”

Plate readers are an important tool but they are expensive. According to the chief, each reader costs roughly $20,000 to install for a two-lane road. That cost increases if there is more than one lane in each direction, he said.

North Castle police will not initiate a chase of a car over a property crime in most cases, which is what a car theft is, Simonsen said. In many instances, the criminals are aware of that and refuse to stop.

However, with plate readers, the department can reach out to police agencies in Connecticut with the pertinent information so those jurisdictions could take action.

Resident James Chambers said there is growing uneasiness in the community over the number of car-related incidents in town.

“There really is a concern amongst the community that this is becoming a huge problem and it doesn’t feel like anything is being done, so whatever you guys can do to push the police department to follow up and make us feel like people really care” is appreciated, Chambers said.


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