In July and August of 2018, a total of nineteen were reported. In the same months this year, it was an off-the-charts seventy-five.
There were surely more, because not all such incidents are reported. “Vehicle thefts, yes,” says detective lieutenant Aimee Metzer, but “not larceny from a vehicle.”
Chief Mike Cox, who came to the department in July after thirty years with the Boston police, confirms that: “If people leave their doors open, sometimes they’re just too embarrassed to admit this, and they don’t report.”
The standard MO is to find unlocked vehicles in streets, driveways, and open garages and grab anything of value, from loose change to phones. “They’re going to go through an entire neighborhood,” says deputy chief Jason Forsberg. “They may get lucky on ten cars a night.”
Like most crime waves, this one was concentrated geographically. “Burns Park had a significant amount,” says Metzer. “But it was the whole downtown area and also on the south side all the way down to 94.”
Thefts usually occur any night of the week. But this summer police noted a peak on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. “We were able to look at the data a little bit better and build a profile of the date, time, and location,” says Forsberg, “and share that with our patrol officers, so they could flood the area during those times. Because of that information, we were able to make arrests.”
Metzer says about twenty-five people were arrested. “‘Gang’ would be a stretch,” she says. “We have some evidence that some know each other. Most [are] not necessarily homeless but have a history with the AAPD and have been around for a while.”
The officers note another recent vehicular crime trend: seventeen mopeds were stolen this summer. “When the college kids are here and leaving their mopeds unattended, that’s a really easy opportunity,” says Metzer.
“You don’t need the key,” Forsberg quips. “You just walk away with it.”
This article has been edited since it was published in the November 2019 Ann Arbor Observer to identify Mike Cox as the AAPD’s new chief.