New Carrollton police car stolen after it is left unlocked

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Carrollton police cruiser was stolen early Sunday after a sergeant left it unlocked and running while he was helping another officer serve arrest warrants, the New Carrollton police chief said.

The incident occurred about 3 a.m. at an apartment building in the 5400 block of 85th Avenue, said New Carrollton Police Chief David Rice. An officer trying to serve two arrest warrants called for backup, and the sergeant who arrived to help got out of his cruiser "in a hurry," leaving the engine running and the door unlocked, Rice said. A man jumped in and drove off, he said.

Rice said he called every officer in his agency, about a dozen, to search for the car. It was found about an hour later, parked between two buildings just down the block from the apartment building. The trunk had been opened and searched, but nothing was missing, Rice said. He said the car had minimal damage.

"We were scouring everywhere, and it was parked in between two buildings," he said.

The person who stole the car remained at large Sunday night, Rice said.

Rice said it is a breach of protocol for an officer to leave his vehicle running and unlocked; in fact, he said, most officers carry backup keys so that if they leave their cruiser running they can still lock it. He said the officer in this case, Sgt. Vince Lyew, had a backup key but did not lock his car.

"They're supposed to secure the vehicle before they leave it, and they're not normally supposed to leave it running," Rice said.

Rice said he had assigned a lieutenant to investigate the matter. Lyew will remain on normal-duty status during the investigation, although he might face disciplinary action after it is concluded, Rice said.

Rice said there were no weapons in the car that was taken. The woman who was the subject of the initial call was arrested, he said. He said he did not know the nature of the charges against her.

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