LONDON, Ohio (WCMH) — London police said officers chased down a stolen car Saturday with suspects accused of stealing from a Walmart inside.
But when they were finally able to stop that vehicle, what they found inside surprised them – five teenage girls, the oldest 14, the youngest, just 12 years old.
It’s part of a growing crime trend police across central Ohio are trying to stop.
“It just seems like every night, we’ve got multiple stories like this happening around the area,” said Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen, who is also the head of the Franklin County Police Chief’s Association.
London Police said three of the teenage girls were runways from Columbus.
London Police Chief Glenn Nicol said juvenile crime isn’t anything new, but the boldness of the crimes and severity of them is.
“It’s not unusual for juveniles to steal from Walmart or businesses, but to have the courage to run and be that young in a stolen car that was probably in their possession about a week,” Nicol said. “They’re getting younger and younger when they’re doing some of these crimes. It was reported to me that one of the juveniles has been in some serious trouble in the past and is still out running around. We don’t know all the details of that, but there’s some serious felonies that they’re involved in.”
Teens stealing cars to commit more crime is what Crispen warned about last month when he joined other police chiefs across the area to announce Operation Game Over, a coordinated effort by law enforcement to stop the exact same crime that took place in London.
“These crimes are still occurring,” he said. “Different groups, different juveniles. Some of the same juveniles, repeat offenders. This is really beginning to effect the suburbs. It’s moving in. We had an issue at Polaris last night, we’ve had issues in Grove City, Reynoldsburg, Whitehall. You name a suburb or township in Franklin County and around Franklin County, I highly doubt they haven’t had some issues with this.”
Crispen said he and his fellow chiefs in the area working with prosecutors and judges to deal with the issue before the next crime goes too far.
“They’re not giving us the correct names when they’re apprehended,” Nicol said. “We have to wait for parents to come into court and for the court has different record and they can determine exactly who they were. Those have to be looked at differently. The ones with the prior records and serious felonies. There’s something going on there that…you need to treat them a little more serious.”
“For some reason, it’s a game to them,” Crispen said. “They think it’s funny and they enjoy telling us all of the crimes that they’ve committed up to the point where we’ve got them, almost like it’s bragging rights. We’re going to have people dying if we don’t get this back under control, so I think it’s time for the whole community collectively to say, ‘Enough’s enough.’ These juveniles need to knock it off. You’ve victimized enough people and the system is going to take a much stronger approach to rehabilitate and to protect the community.”