Two suspects arrested in hundreds of auto thefts, police raise awareness
By Susan Tebben
A string of car break-ins led to the arrest of two men and a confession from one that he had gained entry to more than 200 cars over the past six months, police said.
Richard Backer, 22, and Zachary Rovder, 18, were arrested in connection with break-ins in various residential areas, mainly stealing change, paper money and electronics in plain sight, according to police reports.
“[Backer] said he tried over 1,000 cars,” said Detective Shawn Hevener. “This wasn’t neighborhood-specific, but 95 percent of the cars he broke into were unlocked.”
Backer, who police say was caught stealing on Aldrich Road on Jan. 19, spoke to police on Jan. 9 and admitted he had “hit cars” or broke into cars with Rovder, police said. Backer said his involvement ranged from targeting vehicles to removing items from them.
The two men usually searched for cars from about 1 to 4 a.m. on foot, hitting mostly residential driveways but also some apartment complexes. Usually groups of two conduct the thefts so one can be a “look out” while the other checks cars, Hevener said.
“They only smashed windows if they saw something that made it worth smashing the window,” Hevener said.
Police want to use Backer and Rovder’s story to educate the public about how to prevent auto thefts.
Residents reporting a theft “think they’re bothering us, but they aren’t,” Hevener said. “If you see people that look suspicious, call us, because if you wait even 20 minutes, someone on foot could already be a mile away.”
When a theft has occurred or been attempted, the evidence is immediate, Hevener said. Everything in the glove box will be taken out and the car will have belongings all over it.
“Just take things out of plain sight,” Hevener advised.
Backer has already pleaded guilty in Judge David D’Apolito’s court and was sentenced to 180 days in jail for petty theft, criminal trespassing and complicity charges. Rovder has a court appearance scheduled for Wednesday and has pleaded not guilty to petty theft and complicity charges. He is being held in Trumbull County on other charges. Warrants have been filed on the theft charges, according to court records.