Chicago area auto thefts: South suburban police join forces to stop car thieves

Police in Chicago's south suburbs are teaming up to stop auto thieves, with a focus on protecting car dealers.

Along West 159th Street, there are more than a dozen dealers. It is easy one-strip shopping for buyers. But police worry the stretch could get a lot more popular with thieves.

"We noticed it was coming our way, we felt it was coming our way, so we just wanted to act now before it got here," said Chief Matthew Walsh, Tinley Park Police.

Walsh says his department along with Orland Park and Orland Hills created an auto theft task force, after seeing so many dealerships get hit in suburbs to the north. The task force has added numerous extra patrols and is working with dealerships to protect their cars.

"It has gotten worse I would say in the last two years," said Sam Sweis, Vice President, Jack Mitchell Motorsports.

Sweis runs several local dealerships, including the Volkswagon one in Orland Park. He says they've been spending big money trying to stall the increase in thefts.

"GPS units have been added to our units, to our vehicles at all locations. That cost us roughly in 2021 about $500,000. Camera systems, private security detail," said Sweis as he listed some of the added precautions.

Police say one key to stealing cars from dealerships is often the key fob. Sometimes thieves try to steal hundreds, then return for the cars later.


"They grab the fobs and take off and come back at a later time and take the cars off the lot," said Chief Walsh.

But dealers say thieves keep changing up how they strike. Sweis thinks one key change needs to be stiffer punishments.

"The consequence is not severe enough to stop them again. Most people have stolen cars multiple times," said Sweis.

He welcomes the task force help, while police say they need community help as well to report suspicious activity around all these pricey cars.