Resident of Tartu’s Tammelinn borough Märt Vagur was the last member of his family to still be up at 2.30 yesterday morning when a flash of light in his backyard drew his attention to a group of men who appeared to be trying to steal the family’s BMW SUV. Vagur promptly dialed 112 which led to a major police operation that lasted into yesterday evening.
It took officers responding to the call three minutes to arrive at the scene that sent the car thieves running. The criminals got caught in and damaged a chain-link fence in the process.
Tartu Postimees did not manage to talk to Vagur yesterday. The previous night’s experiences were described by his partner Krõõt Kiviste whom Vagur had aroused immediately after phoning emergency services. “Märt did not want to get involved because we have small children and you never know whether those kinds of characters have guns,” she said.
Kiviste said that the seriousness of the situation only dawned on her later. She added that the family will install additional security equipment in their home to be better prepared in the future.
Kiviste said she is convinced the BMW was kept from being stolen by the rapid response of police officers but also the car’s smart immobilizer. “Even though we can start the car using the key, the immobilizer also asks for a PIN,” she said.
Vagur and Kiviste’s €30,000 BMW wasn’t the only vehicle the thieves tried to lift that night. A little after the criminals’ escape, a Honda CR-V was found parked on the curb in a neighboring street with its engine running. Because there was no one sitting in the car, officers concluded that criminals had managed to boost the signal from the vehicle’s key and start the engine.
The Honda belonged to Urmo Ott who lives nearby. Ott said he had been asleep and only got up to hear from the police that there had been an attempt to steal his car.
“I looked at the navigation log to see how long they had been driving my car. It turned out they had taken it straight to their next target,” Ott added. He said he believes the thieves had picked out the cars earlier and planned for a quick getaway.
Ott booked a service for his car for the same evening to install an additional anti-theft system in the Honda.
The police operation that started in Tammelinn in the early hours of the night led to the capture of a Lithuanian man suspected of attempting to steal the vehicles in the morning.
An officer was forced to fire three warning shots into the air when chasing the thieves down Rebase street. The Lithuanian’s accomplice had not been found by the time Tartu Postimees went to print yesterday.
The police checked dozens of tips of suspicious vehicles with foreign license plates yesterday. A number of patrols were carried out in South Estonia.
District attorney Aro Siinmaa will now have to look at available evidence and decide whether to move for the man’s arrest.