Titusville police say juveniles behind rash of car thefts

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TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Titusville has recently been bombarded with auto thefts, and some of the suspects aren't old enough to legally drive.

Police told Channel 9's Melonie Holt that the thieves' young ages haven't kept them from striking in Rockledge and Cocoa, too.

Titusville's Police Chief John Lau will brief the City Council Thursday night on what his department is doing about the problem.

Police said they are tracking a group of suspected car thieves.

On Thursday, police found a group in a stolen Chrysler Pacifica. Police said the suspects ditched the car and ran. One of them was pulled from a home off Kenilworth Court.

"November and December, we had a pretty significant spike in auto theft," said Lau.

There were dozens of thefts, according to reports.

Lau said he will explain to City Council that the thefts have slowed with the arrest of three suspects in the past month. All of those suspects are juveniles, Lau said.

Most of them don't stay in custody long. And city-wide furlough days have further frustrated police who must prioritize violent crimes over property thefts.

That hasn't stopped police from creating an auto-theft task force.

"One of our worst offenders just turned 13. We estimate he stole 20 cars alone in November and December," said Lau.

In most of these thefts, the suspects simply located a spare key and drove off, according to Lau.

Thomas Lelle believes that's what happened to him.

"We woke up on Wednesday morning and went to take the girls to work and school and (our car) was gone when went out in the morning," said Lelle.

Lelle's missing car is a Chrysler Pacifica. He hopes it is the same one police found Thursday.

"Hopefully that's mine and we can get it back and get back on the road," said Lelle.

By the end of last year, 215 vehicles were reported stolen in Titusville. That's 80 more vehicles than the year before, according to police.