WESTPORT — A recent string of car burglaries in town has symbolized a larger issue in Fairfield County, police said.

From Aug. 2 to Aug. 4, Westport Police Information Officer Anthony Prezioso said there were 24 cars burglarized, with 20 taking place in one night. However, the burglaries represented a problem larger than just what Westport is facing.

“It’s certainly not just unique to our community,” Prezioso said of break-ins. “All over the coast and all over Fairfield County, it comes in waves.”

Six months ago, his department as well as police in surrounding areas saw a similar wave of car burglaries. In January, multiple car burglaries were also reported in Darien.

In March, the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee released a report stating the suburbs of central Connecticut have also become a “hot spot” for car thefts, while authorities have seen fewer vehicles stolen in major cities.

Car thefts decreased in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, and New Haven by more than 38 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to a report drafted by Ken Barone, project manager at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University.

In that same time, car thefts rose up by nearly 21 percent in the state’s suburbs with populations up to 25,000. According to Prezioso, the one commonality in many of the overnight incidents are the cars being unlocked.

“What it all boils down to is you get a group of people that come to an area, they all come in one car, and they’re trying the doors,” Prezioso said. “If it’s locked they move on, but if it’s unlocked they rifle through the car.”

These theft groups can hit big areas because they’re generally working with several people, and sometimes drop off members at different places in a town, he said. According to Prezioso, who was once a member of Westport’s Detective Bureau, the trend in the makeup of these groups has gradually changed since 2014.

“Back then we were dealing with adult groups. As soon as we made arrests it quieted down and then it seemed like juvenile groups picked this up,” he said. “If it isn’t entirely juveniles it’s someone who is 18 or 19 and they’re with juveniles.”

The burglaries reported in Westport on Aug. 2 took place on Morningside Drive South and Morningside Drive North, Center Street, Hales Court, Hilltop Trail, Church Street South, Drumlin Road, and Brightfiled Lane.

The burglaries reported on Aug. 4 took place on Bridge Street and Baker Avenue, with two occurring on Imperial Avenue.

“For it to happen on two separate nights, clearly the town itself was targeted and we had a very larger area affected,” Prezioso said.

Two overnight car burglaries were also reported to have occurred in Darien in the overnight hours between Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.

Due to some break-ins not resulting in theft, the actual number of attempted burglaries can often be inaccurate, he added. If 20 car burglaries were to be reported in a weekend, he said it could be safe to assume 40 or 50 actually could’ve been entered.

“There’s folks affected by this that don’t file reports,” Prezioso said. “Even if your car is just rifled through, we want people to report this.”

Through information sharing with neighboring departments, police are often able to find the culprits. However, following arrests the wave of car burglaries could pick back up months later.

Prezioso said typically the best deterrent for these overnight burglaries are residents locking their car doors. A culture of locked cars in a town can also deter the area from becoming a hot-spot for break-ins, he added.

“It’s very rare we see someone attempt to break a window because they don’t want to make a noise,” Prezioso said.

Since the string of overnight break-ins, the police department has not been notified of others. With the wave seemingly done for now, he urged residents to continue to lock their car doors.

“The best thing you can do is keep the vehicle secured and bring any valuables inside,” Prezioso said. “You’ll be amazed at some of the items we’ve seen taken from the car, and we find out the vehicle was simply unlocked.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com