Two teens to be charged for 40+ car and garage break-ins

Homeowners in one Niles Township neighborhood can sleep a little easier now that the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has caught a pair of thrifty thieves.

Most any rash in crime raises eyebrows, but it's this duo’s young age which has caused alarm; one suspect is 15, while his accomplice is only 14.

"Where were their parents and what are their thoughts about this? Also, did they know it was going on,” resident Marci Wright asked rhetorically.

Back in early July, residents began reporting thefts. Police responded time and time again to the area for nearly four months until an anonymous tipster led investigators to a home in the 2100 block of Spansail St. last Friday. Upon knocking on the door, officers found a small supply of stolen power tools.

Investigators tell NewsCenter 16, the teens quickly admitted to committing between 40 and 50 car and garage break-ins within the Oak Manor subdivision, located about three miles east of downtown Niles.

The juveniles, whose names are not being released, said they’d frequently roam tree-lined between 1 and 3 a.m., checking for unlocked cars, sheds and garages.

Detectives say what’s most interesting in this case, the kids never broke a window or kicked-down a door, every theft was turn-key, providing easy access for any would-be criminal.

"It's really simple to do. As you're walking away, flip your keyless remote. As you're walking out the door, turn the handle. It doesn't take but a second and can save a lot of frustration and anger later,” Wright said.

Items stolen ranged from loose change in one vehicle, to a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics in an open garage. But what were the self-confessed criminals doing with their stockpile of stolen loot? Detectives say it wasn’t to save for a college education or to purchase a Christmas gift for mom, the young men told officers they were purchasing drugs, marijuana to be exact.

"When I was that age I guess I didn't think of that sort of thing. I guess I always felt like I had respect for other people's property,” Wright added.

Because both thieves are juveniles and because they cooperated with authorities, deputies released them to their parents following questioning. Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter is currently reviewing the case, with formal charges expected to be filed sometime next week.

If you live in Niles Township and did not report a break-in during the last four months, you’re asked to call the Berrien County Detective’s Bureau at: (269) 983-7141.

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