Officers plan to seek indictments of at least four people in connection with more than 50 car break-ins, one of the largest rings Urbana police have seen.
Urbana Police Chief Matt Lingrell anticipates multiple charges of breaking and entering, criminal damaging and theft will be presented to Champaign County grand jurors in September. Lingrell estimated the amount of property stolen to be around $15,000.
“It ranks right up there, but we’ve had larger rings in the past that targeted generally higher-priced items,” he said. “When you’ve got 60-plus victims, it may not get a lot bigger than that.”
The break-ins occurred over a span of three months, but Lingrell said the number picked up significantly after July 22. The burglaries seemed to be centered in the east and north ends of Urbana, but other areas of the city and Champaign County had break-in reports following the same pattern.
“In a short two and a half weeks, we had 50-plus B&Es that we can now attribute to them,” Lingrell said.
The men broke car windows to gain access to the vehicles in most cases, even when some of the cars were already unlocked.
“Many of the vehicles, all they had to do was open the door,” Lingrell said. “They just caused additional heartache to the victims.”
The items stolen included laptops, power tools, a big screen TV, purses, credit cards and loose change. Some of the stolen items have been recovered after a search of a suspect’s home, a suspect police located because of concerned citizens.
A resident in the Bentwood Court and Parkway Boulevard area alerted police to suspicious behavior around 11:45 p.m. Friday. When officers arrived on the scene, they found the four men and transported them to the police station for questioning.
“It was local citizens that were our eyes and ears for the area that we ran into this four last weekend,” Lingrell said.
After interviewing four suspects, police executed a search warrant for the residence of 20-year-old Cameron Ward at 229 Elbert St. in Urbana around 6:15 a.m. Saturday. Officers recovered suspected stolen items and have been trying to match the property with the rightful owners.
Two of the four men questioned were arrested for unrelated charges. Shane Ferryman, 34, of Urbana, was arrested on a warrant out of Bellefontaine Municipal Court, and Ward was arrested on charges of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Ward will be arraigned on the drug charges Friday morning in Champaign County Municipal Court. Ferryman remains in the Tri-County Jail.
The amount of cars broken into this year is already more than in 2011, Lingrell said. Urbana saw just 60 car break-ins in all of 2011. Lingrell said the number of car break-ins has been rising since at least 2009.
“What concerns me is that most of our theft cases are tied to drug cases,” Lingrell said.