News10NBC Investigates: Ride-along with the Stolen Vehicle Taskforce

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — We all know there has been a stolen car crisis in our community but based on the data, those thefts are slowing down slightly. Could be, the thieves have hit most of the vehicles susceptible to theft, or it could be because police have stepped up their enforcement in a very visible way.

This week, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke rode along with a specialized taskforce that started over the summer, that tracks down stolen vehicles and the people who take them.

Lt. John Watson of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office leads the team. “We’re listening to different calls that are coming in and we’re just going to go to areas where we typically see these stolen vehicles and just kind of see what we see,” he explains. There are more than a dozen officers, some uniformed and some in plain clothes, who are on the detail which has been operating once a week since July.

Jennifer Lewke: You guys have recovered more than a dozen cars — what has worked? How are you finding them?

Lt. Watson: Honestly, just listening to the radio and these kids are so bold with how they act and everything, they’re not trying to hide it or anything. If it’s got four kids hanging out that are acting foolishly and driving recklessly, it’s probably a stolen car.

Jennifer Lewke: Why do you think this detail is important?

Lt. Watson: The way these kids drive, they are out there trying to hit people, hit pedestrians, driving around schools — eventually it’s going to turn bad.

The team also uses theft data to determine which neighborhoods to target but often in those neighborhoods, theft isn’t the only crime that’s happening.

Lt. Watson: Stolen vehicles are obviously what we’re looking for but if we have other stuff that’s just out there, then obviously we’re going to do that too.

About 20 minutes into our ride-along, a call came in for additional back-up on the arrest of a wanted felon, accused of menacing a child with a gun, pistol whipping two women and shooting at them.

The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Taskforce had a warrant for the man’s arrest and spotted him out walking his dog. The suspect, Franklin Floyd, surrendered as we were pulling up on the scene. When being taken into custody, he looked at a News10NBC camera and said, “Man, what did I do?”

In addition to the warrant, Floyd is also a convicted felon, which prohibits him from legally owning a gun. He was carrying a .357 revolver in his front pocket when he was taken into custody. The investigator who removed it tells News10NBC it was loaded with six rounds.

After Floyd’s arrest on Thursday night, we hit the road again in search of stolen vehicles but it started downpouring, so it was mostly a quiet night.

So far, the task force has made 14 felony arrests and seven misdemeanor arrests, issued 102 traffic citations and recovered 11 vehicles since it began in July.

In many of the cases, the suspects are between the ages of 14-16. When investigators catch up with them, they have to find a parent or guardian before determining what to do next and that can take time. “I’ve had parents beg me to put their kids in jail, they ask for help and we’re finally able to give it to them because they’re scared for their kids and they know sometimes the best place for them is detention where they know they are safe,” explains James Coco, an Investigator with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office who is assigned to the taskforce. “We’ve also had the other extreme where we can’t find the parent, but for the most part, I’ve had very good cooperation with the parents on getting the kids the resources we can get them.”