MANCHESTER, Connecticut (WFSB) — A vehicle was stolen from a gas station in Manchester with a 9-year-old child sleeping inside.
Police said they received the report about it around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
They said the vehicle was taken from the Shell Gas Station on Hartford Road.
The child had fallen asleep in the back seat and woke up to find the suspect behind the wheel.
When she realized the driver was not her mother, she began to cry, police said.
When the suspect realized a child was in the vehicle, the suspect pulled over and fled in another vehicle.
The child ran back to the Shell station and reunited with her mother before police arrived.
The stolen vehicle was found parked on the entrance ramp to I-384, about a quarter mile away from the gas station.
Police said surveillance video showed the theft and the vehicle in which the suspect later fled. They described it as a 4-door sedan that pulled up to the victim’s running vehicle.
A passenger left the sedan and got into the victim’s vehicle. Both vehicles then sped off.
The suspect was described as a teenager who wore grey shorts, a navy blue shirt and a black mask.
No one was hurt in the incident.
Manchester Police Lt. Ryan Shea said the department has received nine reports of stolen vehicles just this week.
“Luckily this incident ended well, but certainly this is a risk that we’re seeing,” he said.
Police say many of the culprits are juveniles, and Republicans are renewing calls for changes, including trying juveniles as adults if they are repeat offenders.
They also want to see tougher penalties for adults who encourage or help juveniles.
“Communities have been terrorized over and over and over again, yet no one wants in this building, no liberal democrats want to do a single thing about it,” said Republican State Rep. Jason Perillo.
Some moderate democrats are also on board.
“We have to do something because this behavior in these cases has not changed,” said Democratic State Rep. Kerry Wood.
Wood thinks there’s enough bipartisan support to pass such a bill, but other Democrats said harsher punishments for kids are not the answer.
“Looking kids up and punishing them makes them tougher, they come out worse,” Wood said.
State Rep. Robin Porter said the focus should be on preventing juveniles from turning to crime.
She wants to see more councilors in school to help troubled kids, and more recreational opportunities to keep them out of trouble. Porter is also worried that racial disparities in the justice system will hurt kids of color.
“It’s not a level playing field, there’s a disproportionate impact,” Porter said.
Shea said it’s the legislature’s call on what it wants to do. In the meantime, he said police will continue to do their best to catch car thieves.
“If the legislature feels it can give us more tools to do that, so be it,” Shea said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Manchester detectives at 860-645-5500.
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