Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka urged residents to lock their cars amid a significant increase in car thefts this year. In the previous two years, Avon Lake had five car thefts. So far this year, the city has had 16 vehicles stolen, with 14 recovered.

“This is very frustrating and disconcerting to all of us,” Zilka said.

Avon Lake is not alone. Other West Side communities are experiencing similar increases and while the motive of the thefts is unknown, Zilka said they may be gang-related.

Police Chief Vincent Molnar said most of the cars are being recovered on the east side of Cleveland, specifically between East 91st and East 101st streets. Communities like Bay Village, Westlake and Avon have seen similar car break-ins or thefts since last year.

“What we’re seeing is that it’s groups of young males, and occasionally females that are coming out,” Molnar said.

Most thefts occur because drivers leave their cars unlocked in the driveway or leave their keys in their unlocked cars, making the cars vulnerable to theft. In January alone, five cars were stolen.

“Residents can really help us by locking their cars and not leaving their keys in the car,” Zilka said. “That’s an important first step in this whole process.”

Avon Lake is in the process of getting cameras to mount across the city to spot stolen vehicles. Molnar said the city would like to have four cameras installed by the end of the year, but is looking into where they will be located.

“We would much prefer that we prevent these cases from happening to begin with,” Molnar said.

The Avon Police Department tracked down a stolen vehicle through its mounted cameras and notified the owners before they knew their car was even stolen, Zilka said.

Bay Village has had three car thefts since January, all of which have been recovered in Cleveland. The department estimates the city has had over 50 break-ins since January.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch said the Legacy Pointe development has had several car break-ins in the last year. To get community feedback, City Council will hold a town hall meeting for Legacy Pointe residents at 6:30 p.m. today in council chambers.

Residents will hear from the Avon Lake Police Department and its detectives about how to keep their property safe. Fenderbosch said to not use key racks near the entryway of a home, as it makes cars easier to be broken into or stolen.

“If you didn’t lock your door between the house and garage, the keys are there, they can grab them,” Fenderbosch said.

Zilka said damage to the recovered cars has been minimal.

Contact this reporter at mheideman@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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