Quarantine fuels vehicle thefts The Chandler Arizonan

Quarantine fuels vehicle thefts

Quarantine fuels vehicle thefts
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

An elderly man pulled into the Circle K near Arizona Avenue and Riggs Road in Chandler shortly after midnight on April 9 to pump some gas.

As he stood there waiting for the fuel to finish dispensing, 21-year-old Jordan Sullivan allegedly came up from behind and assaulted him.

Sullivan grabbed the elderly man by the neck and threw him to the ground, according to Chandler Police, before rifling through the victim’s pockets and grabbing his car keys.

Sullivan then allegedly jumped in the man’s car and sped off, leaving the victim lying helplessly on the ground for 20 minutes before a bystander noticed him.

Sullivan’s arrest is one of the many car thefts and burglaries that have been taking place across Chandler since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a month ago.

The number of vehicle thefts reported over this last month has increased by 75 percent, according to Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan.

It’s one of the most notable crime trends observed in the city since Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency on March 11.

Chandler Police recorded 124 cases of vehicle theft between January and March of this year, which is substantially higher than the 64 cases recorded during the first three months of 2018.

During a presentation before the Chandler City Council, Duggan noted how his department has experienced a 20-percent decline in calls for service since the pandemic began, but vehicle thefts have stood out as one crime type that’s been trending upward.

Car burglaries, which only involves the act of breaking into a car, have additionally been on the rise during the pandemic — increasing by about 20 percent.

“We’re monitoring the patterns,” Chief Duggan said, “we’re deploying resources accordingly and everyday we’re shifting our personnel to help address some of these crime spikes.”

Duggan further noted how residential burglaries have decreased by nearly 30 percent, suggesting that thieves are possibly steering their attention toward structures they know will be unoccupied.

The governor’s stay-at-home orders have forced most Chandler residents to remain indoors for several weeks — allowing for unattended cars to sit idly for long stretches of time.

Since so many businesses and restaurants have been closed by the pandemic, there’s suddenly not as much of a need to drive anywhere and this lack of activity has been observed locally by a sudden drop in auto accidents.

Chief Duggan said his department has experienced a 58-percent decrease in car collisions.

Crime trends observed elsewhere in the country indicate burglars are seeking out structures they know will be empty since Americans are spending most of their time at home.

The Public Policy Institute of California has observed an uptick in commercial burglaries in four of the state’s biggest cities, while most other types of property crimes have been decreasing in the Golden State.

Police departments in New Mexico have also seen more break-ins at restaurants and businesses, but home and car burglaries appeared to be trending downward in that region.

Chandler’s fluctuating crime trends have not put too much of a strain on the police department, Chief Duggan added, since the agency’s found some ways to shuffle around resources. For example, the department’s school-resource officers have been re-assigned to patrol since all of Chandler’s schools have been closed since March.

“We actually have more officers out in the street today than we did pre-pandemic,” Duggan added.

Two hours later, Chandler Police observed the stolen car at another Circle K and attempted to arrest Sullivan. A chase ensued that eventually spilled over onto the Gila River Indian Community.

The tribal police continued tracking Sullivan until the alleged carjacker crashed and rolled the stolen vehicle several times. The suspect then fled on foot, climbing through a water canal before authorities caught up to detain him.

As for Jordan Sullivan’s alleged carjacking from April 9, the suspect was indicted on charges of assault, theft, and unlawful flight in Superior Court.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office added a charge of first-degree murder on April 28 after Sullivan’s elderly victim died from injuries sustained during the assault.

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