DARIEN — Darien has a reputation for being an easy source of money, as unlocked cars continue to be entered and stolen in town.

According to Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, there have been 22 car break-ins and four stolen cars in Darien since Jan. 1. Over the past week, Darien police have arrested several Stamford juveniles for these incidents, one of whom told officers, “Everyone knows you can go to Darien to get money.”

“We’re frustrated we can’t get the message out to lock your cars and not keep valuables in there overnight,” said Police Chief Ray Osborne. “Juveniles know to come to town (because of the unlocked cars). We have to harden the target. The biggest prevention is to lock your vehicles and take your valuables out of them.”

In an effort to stop the problem, Darien police from several divisions took part in a surveillance patrol. Around 1 a.m. on Feb. 23, undercover officers saw a man leaving the driveway of a home on the Post Road near the Stamford line, where several car burglaries recently occurred.

The officers detained the suspect, a 17-year-old boy from Stamford, after determining the teen had possessions from two cars burglarized nearby.

As officers continued to investigate, they determined a second suspect was involved in the burglaries but had fled the scene. Officers met with Stamford police and located the second individual, a 17-year-old boy, at his home in Stamford. Both teens were taken into custody and brought to Darien police headquarters for booking.

During processing, the first teen admitted he needed money to buy drugs, saying the number of unlocked cars and easy access to the valuables and keys inside them made Darien a desirable target.

More Information

Lock your car

The Darien Police Department continues to implore residents to secure their vehicles. Do not leave valuables in vehicles and never leave ignition keys behind.

Darien police charged the teen with 14 counts of third-degree burglary based on break-ins over the past week. He was arrested only days before in Stamford for allegedly stealing a Land Rover from Darien on Feb. 16. Charges are still pending for that situation, police said.

As for the second teen, he was charged with two counts of third-degree burglary for the break-ins occurring the night of Feb. 23.

Both teens were released to their parents ahead of Tuesday court dates. Stamford police said they will follow up with the teens and charge them for several recent Stamford car break-in incidents.

Stopping other suspects

During surveillance, Darien officers also stopped two other groups near the Post Road. A group of Stamford men was released for lack of probable cause and several Stamford teens were released to parents after police learned they were on probation or the cusp of probation. The teenagers’ probation officers were contacted and the youth division is following up.

Later that same day, Darien police arrested two other 17-year-old boys from Stamford.

Around 5 a.m., police received two more car break-in reports from the Post Road. Stolen was $27 in change and 52 $1 lottery tickets. Officers identified and charged a Stamford teen found in the area with third-degree burglary and sixth-degree larceny. The boy told police he had broken into several cars in Stamford and Darien. The 17-year-old also identified a second Stamford boy involved in the break-ins, who was charged with burglary.

Police in Darien and Stamford are investigating the boys, as well as a third Stamford boy, 16, they named as being involved.

Police said the suspects may have been involved in six previous incidents in Darien.

In the same week, police received reports of more car break-ins on Kensett Lane, Stanton Road and Rocaton Road. Stolen items included loose change and $200 Oakley sunglasses. An Audi Q5 valued at $42,000 was stolen from Rocaton Road. The Audi was left unlocked and the owner said the keys may have been inside.

Stepping up efforts

Darien police will continue to investigate the town’s car theft and burglary problem using additional surveillance operations, increased manpower and networking with surrounding police agencies. Osborne said he recently attended a meeting of state police chiefs and found the problem is striking other communities, as well.

“Darien is not alone in this,” he said. “It appears to be a trend.”

Osborne said the night and evening patrol officers are on high alert for suspects.

“I’m going to keep stressing it until I’m blue in the face,” the chief said. “Lock your cars. Don’t leave your valuables inside. Don’t leave your keys inside your vehicles.”

“Any time preventable criminal activity is on the rise, it’s a concern for the police department,” Marron said. “We’re confident that with the cooperation of our residents, we will see a decline in this trend.”

ekayata@hearstmedia

ct.com; @erin_kayata