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July 23, 2014

Man gets surprise when he breaks into surveillance vehicle

A suspected car burglar in Fairview Heights got quite the surprise when he entered an unmarked surveillance vehicle and was greeted by two police officers early Wednesday morning.

The suspect is believed to be responsible for burglarizing several cars in Fairview Heights, police said. The Fairview Heights burglaries are the latest in a string of car burglaries and break-ins across the region.

Lt. Michael Hoguet said police are seeking charges against the suspect. Until then, his name will not be released.

Two police officers were conducting surveillance in an unmarked vehicle on St. Clair Road at 1:55 a.m. Tuesday in response to at least 11 complaints from people who have had items stolen out of their parked, mostly unlocked cars. Most of the reports have come from the St. Clair Road and Old Lincoln Trail area or the Weinel Drive and Fairview Drive areas.

The officers watched the suspect walking between residences, briefly turning on a flashlight to observe his surroundings, when he placed items on the ground and slowly approached their vehicle. The suspect entered the vehicle and was greeted by officers who identified themselves as police.

After a short chase, the suspect was arrested. Police recovered evidence the suspect was carrying and found additional items along the path he took.

Hoguet said Fairview Heights police don't believe the suspect is responsible for a rash of car burglaries and break-ins that have taken place in the metro-east over the last week or so.

"I think it's probably a coincidence," Hoguet said, adding that police often see a spike in these kinds of theft during the summer months. "In many cases these are crimes of opportunity. People are getting out and about and are leaving their cars unlocked or else they keep their windows down because it's nice out."

The suspect has a criminal history including burglary, theft, weapons offenses, armed criminal action and various drug offenses, according to police.

Vehicles have been burglarized in recent days in Columbia and Millstadt. In those cases the cars were forcibly entered. Granite City police also have received several reports about cars being burglarized in the last few days. In those cases the cars were unlocked.

In most cases, thieves have been targeting loose change, electronic items and other things that are easy to carry off. But in one Millstadt case they managed to get away with a firearm that apparently was left in a vehicle while the owner was eating at a restaurant.

While Fairview Heights police would release little information about their suspect in custody, Hoguet said he is not the same person arrested for vehicle burglary Tuesday in Madison County.

A 19-year-old man was caught by police Tuesday after allegedly stealing from cars in East Alton. He was reported breaking into a vehicle at about 5:30 a.m. He was chased by a witness and later police officers before a police dog tracked him into a wooded area and he was captured. The man, whose name has not been released, is currently in custody.

Fairview Heights police ask anyone with information about the burglaries in their city -- or anyone who sees someone suspicious in their neighborhood -- to call 618-489-2100.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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