More than a dozen Mercedes-Benzes and Range Rovers, some costing more than $100,000 each, have disappeared from the driveways of homes in the Hamptons, police say, in what is being investigated as a possible high-priced car theft ring.
No one has been injured in the 15 thefts that have occurred in wealthy enclaves -- such as Southampton, Wainscott and Westhampton Beach -- bustling with summer residents and their upscale cars, authorities said.
Most of the thefts occurred in the middle of the night when the cars were parked -- many of them unlocked, police have said.
"This is our summer season and these types of cars are all over our East End," Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said. "That means this is where the cars are. If you're gonna get one, that's where you would look."
The Westhampton Beach Police Department, which is investigating four stolen Mercedes vehicles in the village, said it has coordinated communication between departments to solve the crimes. Other communities that have fallen prey to the recent car thefts are: Southampton and East Hampton towns and the villages of Quogue and Southampton. Some police officials say the high-priced car thefts appear connected.
Car tracked to New Jersey
"We found through our E-ZPass, it went over the Throgs Neck Bridge and then on the Jersey Turnpike," said Cicco, who added that she thought the intruders struck around 1:30 a.m.
A spokesman from the New Jersey State Police did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Teller, a former village and town police chief, said the various police agencies are working to crack the case of what he called an "organized ring."
He said one of the lifted Mercedes in Westhampton Beach was brand new -- "just delivered into his [a resident's] yard, by the next morning it was gone."
Jay Diesing, president of the Southampton Association, a 50-year-old civic group, moved full time to Southampton Village 20 years ago from New York City. He said car thefts in the area are unusual.
"I think this would take people by surprise, because we think of it very much as small town," Diesing said. "Everybody has their hedges and that's kind of a barrier."
Since June 29, six vehicles have been stolen from driveways in Southampton Town, said Det. Patrick Aube, adding that the town police department is "actively investigating" the cases.
In Quogue, police Chief Robert B. Coughlan said a 2013 blue Mercedes was stolen from the driveway of a home on Dune Road June 16 -- the same night a similar car was stolen in Westhampton Beach. The leased Mercedes stolen in Quogue -- valued at $100,000 -- was found two days later abandoned on a street in Jersey City.
"We do think there's a nexis" to the other thefts, Coughlan said. "It's totally out of the ordinary. We normally don't get that many stolen vehicles -- one every couple of years."
Det. Lt. Christopher Anderson of the East Hampton Police Department said three Mercedes have been stolen in the town since June. None have been found, he said.
"We cannot say definitively that they are connected although we are exploring that possibility," he said.
Amagansett resident and East Hampton Town Board member Sylvia Overby admitted to not always locking her car doors, saying it's "hit and miss," but said she wouldn't change her relaxed attitude in response to the crimes.
"It's a good reason not to own a luxury vehicle," said Overby, who drives a Honda. "My view of cars is they get you from Point A to Point B."
"This is part of living in a wealthy community -- sometimes bad things can happen to people with nice things," she said.