County and city law enforcement team up to track down car thieves, tout new initiative is working

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie county law enforcement has taken to the skies this summer to crack down on the rise of car thefts. With the help of the county sheriff’s helicopter squad and Buffalo police, crews tracked down a stolen car and arrested the suspects who tried to run away.

According to Buffalo police, the entire incident from when the call was made about a stolen Dodge Durango, to the time the suspects were taken into custody, took about 10 minutes.

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The Erie County Sheriff’s office released video from the air one helicopter of a stolen car stopping on the thruway Sunday afternoon. The stolen Dodge Durango was on the interstate 190 heading toward the Church Street exit, when it collided with the barrier and then came to a stop on the exit ramp. At that point the people inside the car tried to make a run for it.

The helicopter crew remained in contact with Buffalo police the entire time and those officers were on the ground tracking what was happening. When the people tried to get away, police were there to arrest them.

This initiative between the sheriff’s office and police ramped up this year because of all the car thefts. Law enforcement says it’s making a difference catching these people, and catching them safely.

“We’ve worked with Buffalo police several times on stolen vehicles and you can’t out run a helicopter. It’s safe, the helicopter stays with the stolen vehicle so the police cars on the ground don’t have to accelerate through intersections and drive at high speeds,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said to News 4.

“We want to be safe, no matter what, nothing trumps safety when it comes to these,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. “We don’t want these guys taking off driving off so recklessly they’re going to wind up crashing, hurting, injuring, killing somebody or themselves.”

Gramaglia says car thefts are down slightly for the month of August across the City. But he says even those numbers are still too high.

Sheriff Garcia says the helicopter they have now is more than 20-years-old. His department will be getting a new helicopter in the next two years to continue this work.

“This is another tool that we’re using to kind of deal with this flood, this major flood of stolen vehicles. I’ve never seen it in my entire law enforcement career,” he said. “The amount of stolen vehicles that are happening.”

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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