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Starke Co. deputies make arrests in 400 'car hop' thefts

STARKE COUNTY, Ind. - At least 10 suspects—separated into two groups—will likely be charged in connection with 400 ‘car hop’ thefts in North Judson and Bass Lake. All of them are 18 or younger.

18-year-olds Anthony Lucas and Michael Ford have been arrested for the Bass Lake thefts.

18-year-olds Sean Wilson and Anthony Morales have been arrested for the North Judson thefts.

Starke County deputies interviewed two brothers Monday evening in connection with the car hops in North Judson, 17 of which happened Friday evening within a two-mile stretch of 700 S.

“The widespread just lack of remorse thing that we’ve got going on here, I personally haven’t seen anything like it in 11 years,” said Starke County Detective Sergeant Don Ferguson.

Two separate groups of teenagers stole from at least 400 neighbors in Bass Lake and North Judson since January 2017.

Police say typically the groups would wait for it to get dark on the weekends, then leave their houses, riding their bikes or walking, and check every car to see if it was locked.

Deputies say 95% of the cars they checked were not, so suspects told police, they would often take the dollar or two most folks left in the middle console.

“I spent pretty much all of this weekend interviewing suspects, and all of them indicated that the reason they chose this crime was that they probably wouldn’t be reported, because they were taking change,” said Deputy Jeremiah Patrick.

“Then they kept getting away with it, so then they started getting more brazen about it. They wound up taking a vehicle at one point. Now, there are some firearms that are missing,” said Sgt. Ferguson.

With their brazenness, came more patrols and eventually more leads.

After Friday’s rash of 17 car hops, police found a footprint all along the road, which they matched to one suspect’s shoes.

“There’s a total of 10 suspects in the two cases, none of which are connected. The total amount of juveniles was five, and the total amount of adults was five,” said Deputy Patrick.

In Bass Lake, deputies say the approximately 100 victims span the entire 11 mile perimeter, but only about a third reported the crimes.

In North Judson, the suspects hit a couple areas near their home base, adding up to about 300 victims.

Once again, only about a third reported the thefts.

Police say it’s critical that other victims come forward, because the alleged ringleader will be 18 in a few months.

“What we’re trying to do is show a pattern if we can tie him to 300 burglaries. Obviously with the court, that gives us a lot more pull to possibly get him waived into adult court. He’s got a pretty extensive criminal history,” said Sgt. Ferguson.

While neighbors might not get remorse, police say they should finally be able to get a good night’s sleep with these arrests.

Deputies say they have recovered a firearm, and it’s currently being processed in the state lab.

Police ask that if you believe you were the victim of  one of these thefts to please contact them.

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