NEW YORK -- How did one borough see an 11% drop in car thefts while the rest of New York City, and much of the country, saw the numbers get worse? The NYPD says a new approach on Staten Island is now being used citywide to combat the pervasive problem.
It's not the lights and sirens, not the badges or handcuffs. The most valuable tool for officers is information to help them watch the streets for any stolen cars or fake plates on Staten Island.
"What we put in place was a 24-hour tracking team," Assistant Chief Joseph Gulotta said. "They're out in the street, as well as in the office. They're tracking every car that's stolen in New Jersey, and it's evolved so they're tracking every car stolen in New York City."
Gulotta says his officers started sharing more information with New Jersey police last year and discovered an organized car theft network with ties to the Garden State.
Police say thieves were caught on video breaking into a Staten Island home last year, then taking off with the homeowner's Range Rover, which was later found in Irvington, New Jersey.
"We're going out and looking for'cause a lot of times when these cars are stolen, we see temporary, forged plates put on them," Gulotta said.
When they do spot stolen cars, they're also taking a new approach: stopping traffic on bridges and highways to trap thieves.
Back in August on the Verrazzano, that strategy prompted suspects to ditch the car and run away before police later caught and arrested them.
Lt. Joseph Bell says it's safer than a police chase, and the NYPD used the move successfully about 20 times last year.
"We chose different locations on the highway, which would be a safe location to slow down traffic and more or less bring the traffic to a standstill where we can apprehend these individuals," he said.
Car thefts in the city have rapidly increased over the last five years. Last year alone, it increased by 15% across the city, but on Staten Island, car thefts dropped by 11% last year.
Gullota hopes to build on that this year.
"I live here on Staten Island. I felt the pressure, my neighbors talking about the cars being stolen, the burglaries, I saw it in my own neighborhood," he said.
Now, police are using some of the Staten Island strategies citywide, hoping to bring a pervasive problem to a standstill.
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