The investigation into a Carrollton-area car theft earlier this week led police to three teen suspects believed to have been responsible for a series of armed robberies in January that involved the use of pepper spray against the victims, authorities said.
With a number of recent arrests, police are hoping the rash of burglaries and thefts around the Carrollton area over the last month will finally begin to slow.
On Saturday evening, just before 8 p.m., a woman parked her silver 2000 Chevrolet Impala in the 3400 block of Joliet and left her keys inside, according to a news alert from the NOPD Second District. When she returned a few minutes later, the car was gone, and she reported the theft to police.
On Tuesday, police were called to the 8400 block of Birch Street, where a witness saw several objects being dumped from a silver Impala, and a search of the license plate identified it as the car stolen on Saturday. The items being thrown out were also linked to a recent vehicle break-in in the area that detectives already had leads on, including the names of two possible suspects who attend Sojourner Truth Academy near Freret and Jena, the release states.
Investigators confirmed the students were in school, then searched the area and found the silver Impala parked in the 2200 block of Jena, the release states. Around 3 p.m., three teens got into the car and began to drive away, and when police tried to stop them, they accelerated instead, the release states. The Impala hit a parked vehicle, and one of the teens jumped out, but police found him hiding in a shed in the 2200 block of Napoleon, the release states.
Police caught up to the vehicle again at the intersection of South Liberty and Louisiana Avenue, where the driver and front seat passenger got out and tried to run, the release states. Police caught the driver, but the passenger escaped, although he was later identified by the other two in custody and arrested at his home Wednesday, police said.
One of the teens was already a suspect in a spree of three armed robberies around South Carrollton and Birch Street on Jan. 9 and 10 in which a group of teenage muggers sprayed their victims with mace, police said. The two muggings on Jan. 9 took place within moments of each other, and in each a woman was pepper sprayed after being made to give up her purse, police said. On Jan. 10, they used the pepper spray and a gun to take both the victim’s purse and her car, but police found the car and arrested one teenage girl afterward.
After his arrest Tuesday, one of the teens confessed to having been present for the Carrollton muggings, identifying the other teens as the robbers in the first two, and admitting his own participation in the third, the release states.
Only one of the three suspects is old enough to be publicly identified, 17-year-old Kevin Washington. His charges include armed robbery (one count), possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, hit-and-run with no injury, fleeing from an officer and reckless operation.
“As a result of these officers’ great persistence and communication with one another, three additional cases were solved,” the release concludes. “Detectives are currently reviewing other cases to establish what, if any other cases these subjects are involved in. It is our belief that these subjects are responsible for a recent rash of auto burglaries, auto thefts and robberies in the area.”
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For the last four weeks, the Carrollton area has been the epicenter of a rash of more than 50 property crimes — home burglaries, car thefts and vehicle break-ins. (By contrast, armed robberies that were taking place more than once a week have slowed to only a handful for the entire district in the last month.)
In addition to the teen suspects arrested Tuesday, an adult was caught Monday after allegedly breaking into an occupied home on Joliet Street. Second District police have been assigning all their available patrol cars to that area for the last few weeks, and that pattern will continue for now, bolstered by efforts from Tulane police in the East Carrollton area, said Second District commander Paul Noel on Wednesday.
“We’re still getting slaughtered in Zone K,” the district’s term for West Carrollton, Noel said, “but hopefully some of that will fall off with those arrests. We’ve made some great cases, but we’ve got to keep the heat up.”
A major problem continues to be unlocked cars. Of the nine auto burglaries reported last week, six were unlocked. The week before, it was 11 unlocked out of 14, said Sgt. Warren Keller of the property crimes division. Not only do such cases tie up police unnecessarily, they sometimes result in arming criminals who were previously just petty thieves — in one Birch Street auto burglary in the last week, a 9-mm handgun was stolen from the center console of an unlocked vehicle, Keller said.