Austintown Police: Out-of-state thieves breaking into vehicles at parks, gyms, ballfields
Police in Austintown say they believe that out-of-state criminals are targeting public parks and other outdoor locations where people have a false sense of security.
Detective Sargent Greg McGlynn tells 21 News the group is comprised of 10-15 black males, ages ranging from 20-40 years old.
Police say this group of thieves are from Florida, and have been targeting public areas like shopping malls and parks, where people leave valuable items in their vehicles, across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. Those stolen items are typically used to purchase Visa gift cards, which are nearly impossible trace and act as cash.
According to a police report, four vehicles were broken into at Austintown Township Park late Wednesday afternoon, the second incident in less than a month.
A woman watching a softball game returned to her SUV to find the rear passenger side window smashed. Her purse was missing along with a phone, her wallet, driver's license, credit cards, and $160.
Another woman at the park told police that someone broke the front passenger side window of her SUV, taking her purse, wallet, a credit card, two debit cards and $80.
Another person at the park who had left their pickup truck window open told police that a purse containing a driver's license, two debit cards, a credit card, and home keys was taken. Police say two attempted purchases were made at Walmart totaling more than $1,500.
A passenger window was also smashed on a minivan at the park. The owner reported that nothing was missing from the car.
Police learned that someone later tried to charge more than $1,500 at Walmart and $1,000 at Walgreens using the stolen cards.
The rightful owners of the credit cards were notified of the attempted transactions, police were notified, but arrived shortly after the thieves left.
Park officials tell police they will check surveillance video to see if anything suspicious was recorded on Wednesday.
"We do have a good lead on at least two of them that we possibly have them identified...so we're going to compare photos from surveillance to photos that we have.", McGlynn added.
McGlynn says one of the suspects from a break in at the park back in August is currently in the Butler County Jail, he'll be extradited to face charges of receiving stolen property and misusing a credit card.
In the meantime, police ask that if you're headed out to one of these public places, to bring your items with you.
“The inconvenience of carrying your items will far out weight the time you will spend replacing your driver’s license, yours or your child's SSN card, your checks, changing your bank accounts, all of your credit cards, and losing all the gift cards you carry”, police say in the social media post. McGlynn added.