Monday, February 4th, 2008
By Shelley Grieshop
Two arrests made in more than 70 vehicle break-ins
Crimes occur in Mercer, Auglaize and Allen counties
  Authorities have in custody two men and a teenage boy who allegedly broke into more than 70 vehicles in a recent crime spree in Mercer, Auglaize and Allen counties.
Arrested in St. Marys on Friday evening during a surveillance detail by officers were Billy Ray Pate, 20, Nicholas M. Redman, 18, and a 17-year-old boy, all of Wapakoneta. Pape and Redman each have been charged with felony theft and are expected to appear in Auglaize County Municipal Court today.
The teen, whose name was not released, was charged with a probation violation but could be charged additionally as an adult. He was transferred to a juvenile detention center in Bellefontaine. His initial court date was not available.
St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said it's likely all the suspects will face additional charges after review by the prosecutor's office.
Foxhoven said St. Marys police officers and Auglaize County Sheriff's deputies performed a stake-out Friday night in unmarked cars in an area near Beech Street where vehicles previously had been entered. After observing the suspects in a nearby parking lot, officers followed them and initiated a traffic stop at 10:23 p.m. at the intersection of Spring and Vine streets.
Following the arrests, search warrants were issued for the suspects' vehicle and a pair of apartments in Wapakoneta. Many items, which police believe were stolen from area vehicles, were recovered during the search, Foxhoven said. Drugs and drug paraphernalia also were found in the suspects' car, which was impounded by police.
Numerous items were reported stolen from vehicles across the three counties "from cigarettes to PlayStation video games," Foxhoven said, adding the total dollar amount has not yet been calculated.
During questioning by officers, the males admitted to some of the crimes, Foxhoven added. The investigation, so far, leads officers to believe the three suspects are the only ones responsible for the recent crime spree.
The majority of the vehicle break-ins occurred in southwest Auglaize County, although officials believe the three suspects also are responsible for like crimes in Celina, Rockford and the Spencerville area. The investigation involves seven law enforcement agencies.
Although most of the 70-plus vehicles entered were unlocked, damage was sustained to others that were not.
"I know in Minster there were bricks and rocks thrown through windows," Foxhoven said.
Minster Police responded to the Eagle Acres shopping center shortly after 7 p.m. when a woman leaving work discovered the front passenger window broken in her van. Her wallet, containing cash, credit cards and an operator's license, was missing from the purse she left on the seat.
Similar incidents occurred in Celina late last week, with Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser believing the same individuals may have been involved.
Two vehicles parked at St. Paul United Methodist Church were entered with change and vehicle accessories taken. Eight vehicles - some locked and others unlocked - were entered at Breakaway RecPlex, 6301 U.S. 127, Celina, with at least one woman reporting a purse taken.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey reported deputies are looking into several reports, including one involving a purse taken from a car at the Wright State University-Lake Campus on Thursday night.
"Right now we cannot connect the dots but there are definitely similarities," Grey said.
Foxhoven said some residents feel it's useless to lock their vehicles since thieves sometimes break into them anyway. He disagrees.
"Two of the three suspects said they only entered unlocked vehicles," he said.
Foxhoven said most thieves won't take the time or risk being caught breaking into a locked vehicle. He also advises residents to keep their possessions out of sight so criminals aren't tempted.
- Daily Standard reporter Margie Wuebker contributed to this story.
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