Takoma Park police aim to catch fleeing thieves -- Gazette.Net



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Takoma Park police are looking to catch thieves attempting to flee the city by seeking help from law enforcement from surrounding areas, police Chief Ronald R. Ricucci said Monday.

The city's top cop said he decided to announce his plan Monday night to allay fears about a recent rise in thefts from vehicles and reports of gunfire this year. Many of these crimes occurred at two gas stations near the border of Takoma Park and Washington, D.C., with suspects escaping into the district believing police cannot follow them, police say.

“I can tell when residents are worried,” Ricucci said. “It was time to let people know what is being done.”

From Jan. 31 to May 4 there were three vehicles stolen and eight reports of thefts from vehicles at two gas stations located on New Hampshire Avenue, police reported earlier this month. Four people have been arrested.

In the most recent incident, on May 19, a car with five men in it drove up to and stole property from a car parked at the gasoline pumps of the Express gas station on the 6400 block of New Hampshire Avenue while the vehicle's owner was in the station. The suspects then fled, police reported. No arrest was made.

Police said in a release that they think thieves chose to steal from cars parked at these gas stations because they are close to the city's border with Washington, D.C., where Takoma Park police are not allowed to chase suspects who have commented misdemeanor crimes such as theft from vehicles.

There were three separate reports of residents hearing gunfire in Takoma Park in the week before the meeting, with police finding evidence that a gun was in fact fired in two of them, Ricucci said Monday. This year, there have been 17 incidents. The year before there were 34 total.

Shortly before 12:30 p.m. Monday, Takoma Park police received a report of the sound of gunshots, spokeswoman Catherine E. Plevy reported Monday. No bullet shell casings or any other evidence of gunfire were found.

In April, city officials were briefed on the possibility of introducing special sensors in the city meant to pinpoint the location of gunfire. Ricucci said installing such a system is cost-prohibitive; it would cost about $250,000.

Takoma Park is bordered by Washington, D.C. on the south, Prince George's County to the east, and Montgomery County to the north and west, each of which maintains its own police department. Ricucci said his officers can pursue suspects out of the city, but often find it challenging to coordinate the cooperation of other police departments.

Ricucci said his department plans to curb these crimes in part by working with other departments to catch suspects fleeing the city.

This effort will be coupled with a public information aimed at residents as well as the use of plainclothes police and extra uniformed patrols at problematic areas, announced earlier this month in a police news release.

aruoff@gazette.net