Car thefts spike in Oak Park; Dodge Caravans being targeted

Car thefts have spiked this year in Oak Park, with Dodge Caravans and Chrysler Town and Countries being targeted in particular, police say.

So far this year Oak Park police have recorded 52 total cases of vehicular thefts (including attempted thefts), with 15 of those cases in July and seven so far in August, according to LaDon Reynolds, investigations commander for the Oak Park Police Department.

“This is higher than in past years,” Reynolds said. “There’s definitely been a recent uptick in these types of thefts.”

Reynolds could not specifically say why Caravans and Town and Countries were among the most frequently targeted, but said several juveniles from Chicago who were arrested in connection with some of the thefts had a “unique understanding” of how to break into and start the vans.

A police bulletin sent to residents last week said the string of vehicle thefts typically have a common set of characteristics — thieves target models made between 1998 and 2006 that are parked on the street or in parking lots or alleys during the overnight hours.

Dodge Caravans are among the top 10 most commonly stolen vehicles in the U.S., according to the Oak Park Police Department.

Thieves seem to target the vans for a combination of reasons, including the high resale value of the parts and the ease of being able to damage the steering column, which can be “peeled” easily and started without using a key, according to the police bulletin.

In addition to arresting two juveniles in connection with several of the crimes, police on August 16 arrested 28-year-old Nicholas Payne of Berwyn for involvement in a vehicle recent theft in Oak Park.

Sometimes the stolen vehicles turn up several days later — as was the case with a Mitsubishi Lancer that went missing from the 900 block of Garfield Avenue on August 11 and was found by the Chicago Police Department on August 15.

Other vehicle types targeted in the recent string of auto burglaries this month don’t seem to follow a pattern.

Among the stolen vehicles are a 2007 Cadillac, a 2005 Dodge Neon, a 1996 Acura Integra and a 2005 Jeep Wrangler.

Police are telling residents to prevent themselves from falling victim to auto theft by parking in well-lit areas, locking doors and using car alarms.

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