MERRILLVILLE, IN- On Tuesday, January 11th, during a town council meeting, Merrillville Police Chief Wiley Luther Cuttino addressed the council on updates concerning the police department. Watch below:
The main concerns during the meeting were about the new town License Plate Readers (LPR), which the chief announced were now functional after the department utilized money from The American Rescue Plan that the council had approved previously.
The police department added four locations using nine cameras. The chief said:
“The goal is to have six locations using 16 cameras and two mobile vehicles with the technology.”
However, after hearing the chief, two councilmen made it very clear that they were against the LPRs. Councilman Leonard White (Ward 7) said:
“It’s harassment. I’m against a vehicle riding around looking for felons.”
Merrillville’s License Plate Readers Nab Another Stolen Car Saturday After A Brief Pursuit https://t.co/G7sYK3Qlxg
— Region News Source (@RegionNewsNow) January 16, 2022
As the councilmen were debating, Chief Cuttino spoke up to clarify and said:
“It sends a signal out for stolen vehicles or stolen plates and with the uptick of pursuits the last year we can prevent the pursuit by grabbing them while stationary. It could probably save a lot of lives because of those pursuits.”
Councilman Donald Spann (Ward 1) thought it was best to blurt out his own, anti-cop closing remark on the topic by saying:
“We hate cops.”
After some laughs by the council, Spann pointed at Councilman Jeffrey Minchuk, a former police officer, and said:
“That’s a joke.”
Reportedly, Councilman Spann made headlines back in October 2021 when police responded to a 911 hang-up at his home, which ended up being a Domestic incident.
According to court documents, Spann was charged with Domestic Battery, Interference with the Reporting of a Crime, Resisting Law Enforcement, Battery, and Disorderly Conduct – unreasonable noise.
As for the LPRs, just as recent as Saturday, January 8th, police were praising the use of the new technology.
Merrillville Police Department (MPD) was able to intercept a stolen vehicle that was wanted in connection to many crimes in Illinois. A suspect was arrested with numerous pending charges. MPD said in a statement:
“We’ve had over 30 reports of stolen vehicles in the past 3 months along with over 15 recoveries.”
Suspect Arrested After Lake Station Pursuit Into Gary Then Steals Police Car and Escapes https://t.co/TCbRMW8cRS
— Region News Source (@RegionNewsNow) May 5, 2021
Police pursuits of stolen vehicles seem to be a constant issue for Merrillville and its surrounding areas, which is why the LPR technology can be a huge asset to the police departments.
On January 13th, a suspect crashed in a head-on with a police vehicle after leading a car chase in Gary, Indiana.
According to reports, at about 1:25 p.m. a Lake County sheriff’s officer tried to pull over a black Jeep that was seen speeding in the area of U.S. 20 and Clay Street in Gary. The driver allegedly refused to pull over and sped up, leading the chase.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said that as the suspect drove through an alleyway at Whitcomb Street, his Jeep struck a Lake County patrol vehicle in a head-on collision.
Martinez said that the officer was able to do a pit maneuver to try and stop the Jeep safely when the suspect lost control of the car, striking the police car and then crashing into a tree.
Police arrested the driver, a 22-year-old Portage resident and the passenger, a 23-year-old Merrillville resident.
Police found two handguns and discovered that one of the guns had been reported as stolen. A quantity of suspected ecstasy pills and marijuana also were found. Martinez said in a statement:
“I am so pleased that Lake County police officers were able to use their training, knowledge, and expertise to stop this vehicle without anyone getting hurt.
When it comes to vehicle thefts and carjackings, I take these types of crimes very seriously. I have put more targeted patrols on the streets to help bring car thieves to justice. Those efforts are truly helping to make our communities safer.”
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Woman carjacked a second time – right after getting her car back from the previous carjacking
January 19th, 2022
CHICAGO, IL – A woman in Chicago has reported that she was just carjacked a second time right after she got her car back from the first carjacking.
On January 15th, an unidentified 39-year-old woman was sitting inside of her car on North Broadway just after 8 pm when she was approached by three unknown men who were wearing all black and had ski masks on.
The three men approached and then pointed a gun at her, demanding her vehicle.
CHICAGO CHAOS: A Chicago woman says she was carjacked twice in three days. https://t.co/ykx50W5Aig
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) January 18, 2022
The victim did as she was told and got out of the vehicle and let the criminals take it. Thankfully there were no reported injuries during the violent encounter.
Sadly, this was the second time this same victim has been carjacked…in less than a week. According to CWB Chicago, the woman was sitting in her vehicle just before 5 am on North Winthrop on January 12th.
In that incident, three men walked up and pointed a gun at her, dragged her out of her car, and fled the area.
The Chicago Police Department reported that the victim was not injured during this violent encounter and they were able to recover her vehicle later that day. However, police have yet to be able to identify any suspect information in the case.
In 2022, the Chicago Police Department already has over 70 reported carjackings and we have barely even started the year. Police have reported that out of the 70 reported carjackings, they have been able to affect over 56 arrests.
David Brown, the Chicago Police Department Superintendent, noted the high number of arrests is the work of the police department’s vehicular hijacking task force. Last year, the task force was increased by 40 officers.
Woman reports being carjacked just days after getting car back from previous carjacking. She says she was carjacked twice in three days.https://t.co/K771Yfanq2#Chicago #Carjacking #podcast #radio #radioshow #talkradio #syndicatedradioshow #police #Sheriff #Trooper #TrueCrime
— L.E.T. Radio Show Podcast (@LETRadioShowPo1) January 18, 2022
Chicago is not the only area that has seen an increase in carjackings as of late.
In Pennsylvania, police there report that they have taken two juveniles and a woman into custody for attempting to carjack a victim at the Willow Grove Park Mall.
In that incident, the victim had parked her car and was preparing to walk into Bloomingdale’s when the three suspects confronted her. The suspects drug the victim out of the car and threw her to the ground as one of the suspects attempted to jump in the car to drive off.
The victim attempted to use her cell phone to call 911 which was noticed by two of the suspects who began to physically attack her. For some reason, the three suspects were scared off and fled into the mall where they thought they would be able to escape.
Unfortunately for them, an Abington police officer happened to be in the third-level parking lot who began chasing them on foot. The foot chase lasted through one flight until the officer was able to capture all three on the second level of the mall.
The Philadelphia Police Department only identified the adult suspect in the case, Nisira Wilson. They have not released the names of the two male juveniles that were also arrested in the incident.
Police reported the victim, in this case, received minor injuries as a result of the attack.
On Monday, January 10th, 28-year-old Omar Soto was ordered held without bail after Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz rejected a defense request that he be released with electronic monitoring.
On Sunday, January 9th, at 11 p.m., Soto allegedly stole the SUV after a woman went into a Walgreens.
According to the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the SUV was left running with the one-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl inside. The teen was seated in the front passenger seat and when Soto got into the car, she told him he was in the wrong car.
Soto drove off anyway and as he was driving, prosecutors said that the girl pleaded with him to let her and the baby out. Assistant State’s Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis said that after pleading with Soto to let her and the baby out of the car, the teen then began to Facetime her mother and Soto tried to take her phone away.
Kalliantasis alleged that Soto eventually stopped the car after a few minutes and told the girl to get out; when she didn’t do as he said, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her across the center console and pulled her out through the driver’s door.
Soto then allegedly returned to the car and drove away with the one-year-old. Police found him a short distance away and arrested him. The baby was found in the back seat of the SUV unharmed. Authorities said that some of the teen girl’s hair was removed from her scalp, but she was not seriously injured.
At the time of the carjacking, Soto was on parole for a burglary and had received a three-year sentence for a 2018 DUI. He previously received probation for aggravated DUI in 2016.
Police found Soto’s parole slip at the crash site and the driver who was t-boned by his car identified him as the driver who ran from the scene.
Judge Ortiz shot down a defense attorney suggestion that Soto should be placed on electronic monitoring rather than held without bail as prosecutors requested. Ortiz said in a statement:
“We see every day that can be tampered with or simply cut off and walked away from, so I do not think that will suffice.”
In a separate incident, a 19-year-old man has been charged with two recent armed carjackings in Chicago. According to Fox 32, the first attack was on December 14, 2021 when Trevelli Jones carjacked a woman at gunpoint in the 1600 block of North Washtenaw Avenue in Logan Square.
Then, on January 9th, Jones carjacked a 24-year-old male delivery driver at gunpoint in the 2600 block of West Potomac Avenue in Humboldt Park. Police said that two men with guns demanded the delivery man’s property and his car.
The driver complied and then men took off in his vehicle. The delivery driver was not hurt. On Monday, January 10th, Jones was arrested with two counts of carjacking and two counts of robbery with a firearm.
He was arrested in the 200 block of North Homan Avenue in East Garfield Park after being identified as one of the suspects who took a vehicle at gunpoint from a 26-year-old woman on December 14, 2021.
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