A string of car thefts reported early last week recalls a scene out of the 2000 action film “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
In this scenario, trade the Long Beach, Calif., setting for Southold, where three high-end vehicles were stolen in one night as a suspected auto theft ring targeted the area overnight between Oct. 10 and 11.
“We are not the only township that has been targeted by what we feel is an organized group,” Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said Tuesday, noting that the investigation is active and ongoing.
The vehicles — a 2016 blue Audi SUV, a 2020 white Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2018 blue Audi sedan — were reported stolen on the morning of Oct. 11 by owners living within a one-mile radius of each other on Longview Lane, Kimberly Lane and Brook Lane in Southold.
Vincent Orlando, the town’s highway superintendent, was among the victims in last week’s theft.
“They stole my wife’s car right out of the driveway,” he said in an interview Tuesday, describing the pattern of crimes as a “gutsy move” that left his family feeling violated.
“It’s frightening for something like that to happen,” Mr. Orlando said. “Southold is such a quiet town — you’d never think three cars would be stolen one after the other.”
He believes his wife’s 2016 Audi was stolen between 4 and 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 11 and driven to New Jersey.
Mr. Orlando was able to log into his EZ Pass account and see that the vehicle tag was used to cross the Throgs Neck Bridge around 6:30 that morning and pinged near the Garden State Parkway by Newark shortly after that.
While unnerved, Mr. Orlando said Tuesday that detectives are investigating and he remains optimistic. In the meantime, he’s pursuing a claim through his insurance company.
Mr. Orlando said the keys weren’t left inside of the vehicle, which may have been left unlocked.
He said he recently learned about relay thefts, which involves the use of devices to essentially “trick” newer model cars into thinking the correct key fob is nearby.
It’s unclear if law enforcement officials believe that’s the tactic that was used in this instance. According to police reports, the other two stolen vehicles had been left unlocked overnight, with the keys inside.
Chief Flatley said Tuesday that one of the three stolen vehicles has been recovered, but did not specify which vehicle or where it was ultimately tracked down.
Reports of activity by an alleged auto theft ring were rampant on the South Fork in 2020. In one report, thieves made off with four Range Rovers in a single night, according to The Southampton Press.
Chief Flatley said he’s seen recent alerts from other law enforcement jurisdictions throughout the entire tri-state region.
Residents are encouraged to stay vigilant to protect against these crimes.
“I would always strongly urge all residents to never leave their car keys inside of their vehicles when unattended,” the chief said. “This is perhaps the easiest way to deter a thief from targeting your vehicle to be stolen.”