Springfield post leads in recovering stolen cars

Springfield’s highway patrol post has recovered 22 stolen vehicles so far this year, 13 of which were found by Trooper Jason Hodge. That’s accounted for an equal number of arrests.

No other trooper comes close to Hodge’s record this year — a Lima trooper has recovered seven vehicles in 2013, said Sgt. Jim Slusher of the Springfield post.

“The Springfield post has a tradition of being a leader in the area of stolen vehicle recoveries,” Slusher said. “(They) remain very active in criminal patrols.”

Last year, 229 vehicles were reported stolen in the greater Springfield metropolitan area, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute.

The local highway patrol recovered 36 stolen vehicles last year and Springfield Trooper Timothy Durham led the state, finding 16 stolen vehicles, valued at $138,550. That also resulted in the apprehension of 17 suspects, according to the patrol.

In many cases, Slusher said, stolen vehicles are used to commit other crimes, which means taking them off the street can have an impact on crime overall.

“We recover drugs out of stolen cars and illegal weapons as well,” he said.

Both Hodge and Durham work the overnight shift of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., which Slusher said aids in their ability to find stolen cars because there isn’t as much traffic.

Local highway patrol cruisers don’t have license plate readers, a tool often used to quickly read plates and identify vehicles as stolen.

As an 18-year veteran of the patrol, Hodge said he’s learned to rely on the plate numbers and descriptions he commits to memory from the daily “hot sheet” he gets at the post at the beginning of his shift, an old-fashioned instinct.

“I look specifically for that vehicle and the license plate number that’s attached to it,” Hodge said. “You just zero in on that license plate.”

Most of the time, the vehicle is occupied when he finds it, increasing the level of danger when he pulls it over, Hodge said. However, that can also lead to an arrest.

If Hodge continues to find stolen cars at this pace, he could win the patrol’s Blue Max Award for the most recoveries. The perks of winning include a medal, license plates, uniform ribbon, citation of merit and exclusive use of a patrol car for a year.

But for Hodge, who won the award in 2007, his greatest reward is getting the vehicle back to its rightful owner.

“They can’t thank you enough,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling when someone thanks you just for returning their property.”

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