Uptick in Sparta car thefts could be part of larger criminal ring in Newark, police say

SPARTA, New Jersey (WABC) -- Thieves have been stealing cars right of people's driveways in one New Jersey township.

Police say the thefts are targeting cars in Sparta, and they believe they are part of a widespread criminal ring.

It's a ring that may be operating 45 minutes away in Newark, cops say.

On the shores of shimmering Lake Mohawk, where crime fades in a golden glow and its comfortable distance from the city, suddenly, there's a problem.

"The last two days I've left in the morning, there's been a cop at the end of our street and I thought it was just for a speed trap," a resident said.

It was not a speed trap. In Sparta Township where two cars were stolen all of last year, three were stolen in just the last eight days. The manicured lawns and fiercely guarded canopied driveways, are making for an easy target.

"Our residents feel safe and they leave their key fobs in the car, they don't lock the car and for a thief that's paradise," said Lt. John Lamont, Sparta Township Police.

The people responsible for this latest string of thefts know exactly what they are doing. They know, for example, if you are looking for a nice car, you don't go to a bad neighborhood, you go to the nicest neighborhoods and that's what they've done. They've come to the nicest neighborhoods in Sparta and they have found plenty.

We couldn't find anyone who would admit they leave their keys in the car, but they do acknowledge the low crime rate leaves them carefree.

"I definitely feel safe, it's uncommon for this area," a resident said.

"It still makes us wonder, and probably everybody should be more careful with things no matter where they live, but it is odd that this is happening in our neck of the woods," another resident said.

The thieves are professional, which the police say should not fool anyone into thinking they are not dangerous.

"Don't go out and confront them, because you are dealing with people that could be violent. Just call 911 and let us deal with them," Lt. Lamont said.
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.