“We’ve seen a lot of vehicles being stolen in Illinois or Chicago, crossing into the Indiana state line, committing other crimes, drive-by shootings, homicides, burglaries,” said Lake County Indiana Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr.
Recent crime statistics provided by the Chicago Police Department show 6,945 motor vehicle thefts reported so far this year. That number is up more than 200 from this same time last year, a 3% increase. Even worse – a 7% increase from the same time frame in 2019.
“They think if they get to the Illinois state line or Chicago that the Lake County Sheriff’s Department will not chase them. Well, that’s incorrect,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s department is using every means possible to catch up to criminals, and that includes the purchase of nine high-performance vehicles.
“These vehicles are the common vehicles that car thieves steal because they’re high-performance vehicles. They have 707 horsepower, they do nearly 200 miles an hour, so our police cars can’t keep up with these types of vehicles,” said the sheriff.
The high-performance vehicles include Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Chargers. The sheriff says they were purchased without using taxpayer dollars.
“We will chase you. We will catch you. And we will take you to jail… we will extradite you back into Indiana where our prosecutor is a stickler on crimes here,” he said.
A report by Fox 32 Chicago says this year already, the Lake County Indiana Sheriff’s Department has had 84 pursuits versus 95 in all of 2020. In half of the cases this year, they caught up to the criminals and arrested them.
The pursuit policy for Illinois State Police is much stricter than Indiana. Troopers must assess risk based on a 14-point check list. They also cannot pursue for traffic offenses, while Indiana State Police can, depending on the severity of the offense.
In Chicago, police are not allowed to chase a vehicle unless it’s first approved by a supervisor who must determine if the risk of a chase is greater than the risk of letting someone escape.
Illinois State Police just installed license plate reading cameras on interstates. But Lake County, Indiana, is already using the technology. More than 70 are already reporting to police.
“With that technology, we’re able to identify stolen vehicles, individuals that are wanted on warrants, registered sex offenders that are frequenting or driving around parks or schools,” said the sheriff.
Martinez encouraged drivers to lock their car doors, avoid leaving keys in the vehicle and always take firearms, purses and wallets out of the vehicle when not in use.