FOX 32 NEWS - Chicago Police have busted a car theft ring that has been targeting high-end vehicles in wealthy suburbs this year.
Police say four gangs working on Chicago’s South Side were involved in a loosely organized theft ring that stole 100 vehicles from 40 different suburbs.
“The total value of the cars that were taken in these burglaries, the cars alone are over $3 million,” said Lt. Edward Wodnicki, Commander of Detectives at Area South police headquarters.
After learning that gang members were bringing the stolen vehicles to Chicago's South Side, police late last week deployed squad cars equipped with high technology license plate readers to help find and recover many of those missing vehicles.
“We started at 4 o'clock in the morning, we went out to the area where we knew these cars have been found in the past and within a matter of hours, we had recovered 15 stolen vehicles. The next day we did the same thing. We also arrested some targets, people we had identified as offenders in these crimes,” Wodnicki said.
Police say the gangs were using the stolen vehicles to shoot rival gang members, commit robberies and thefts, and even murders. Some of those crimes provided police with video that enabled them to identify suspects.
Police say the stolen Jaguar that 18-year-old Paul O'Neil used to ram a squad car as he tried to elude officers near 71st and Merrill is one of those crimes connected to this theft ring. O'Neil was later shot and killed by police who were then put on desk duty for violating department policies.
The investigative break in this case came from a stolen laptop that had tracking software on it. Wodnicki, posing as the owner, sent a message to the computer and arranged a meeting in a downtown bank parking lot to get the computer back for $500.
“The bad guy showed up, I bought a laptop back from him, and we placed him under arrest. On the seat next to him was a stolen, fully loaded 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun, next to that was a 50 round extended magazine,” Wodnicki said.
Dijon Foston, 27, was busted and then spilled the beans on the theft ring. Police have arrested 15 suspects, effectively shutting down the operation. But they had the following message for suburbanites.
“Yes you live in a great community, yes your neighborhood is safe, but if these bad guys really want to dig, you've got to keep your car doors locked. The majority of these cars were taken because the owners left their keys in their car,” Wodnicki said. “There are always other bad guys waiting to fill the shoes of the ones that we take off the street.”