LIME CITY — Perrysburg Township police officers have played a large role in breaking up an alleged Ohio theft ring.

Joseph E. Hitchcock, 34, is in custody in Greene County on three counts related to automobile and other thefts that have taken place in Perrysburg Township, as well as the Dayton and Findlay areas, according to Det.-Sgt. Todd Curtis.

“Hitchcock, and additional suspects, will be facing numerous charges in Wood County, Hancock County, Greene County, Montgomery County and Clark County,” Curtis said. “At least here, we’ll have burglary, receiving stolen property, grand theft auto. There’ll be breaking and entering and grand theft for the storage units.”

Five individuals are believed to be part of this theft ring, he said.

“When you look on the map, and you look at these other agencies, everything goes right up and down I-75,” Curtis said.

Hitchcock was booked in Green County on March 13 for theft - all other larceny, failure to comply with signal of police officer and receiving stolen property. Warrants for Hitchcock are in process through the Perrysburg Township for additional counts of burglary and grand theft auto, Curtis said.

“We’ve tied these things back to December. This guy’s been coming up to our area for quite some time,” he said.

The case started in earnest on March 5 with reports of a stolen vehicle, Curtis said.

A silver 2-door 2012 Nissan Altima was identified as missing by an auctioneer. The vehicle was owned by a Simmons Road resident who died of natural causes on Jan. 14 in his house, Curtis said. The vehicle was to be auctioned with other property located at the deceased individual’s house.

“The auction company found it was missing from the garage. The family had left it in the garage with the keys in it, to prepare for the auction,” Curtis said.

The vehicle was recovered, without keys, in Moraine.

Independent of that investigation, another stolen vehicle was found, Curtis said.

“On March 13 we recovered a stolen vehicle from the Dayton area at the Walmart, Fremont Pike location,” he said.

Hitchcock had reportedly been at the Lock-It-Up Self Storage on Helen Drive.

“We were able to tie Hitchcock, through video and the search warrant, to stolen property in Findlay, Lima, Dayton and the deceased individual’s house,” Curtis said. “Basically, what he did is he broke into the house, stole stuff out of the house, stole (the deceased individual’s) car. They had other property that was stolen along the way, on I-75, where they broke into a barn and stole a truck in Findlay.”

Hitchcock was already in custody in Greene County when Perrysburg Township police started searching for him.

“Right after we did the search warrant for the storage unit, in fact we had probably just missed him, he headed back south and had gotten into a pursuit, in two different counties, and was caught in Greene County. He had a bunch of warrants out for his arrest,” Curtis said.

Perrysburg Township police then began work with detectives in Vandalia, Greene County, Montgomery County, Moraine and Clay Township.

Curtis also said that a piece of specialized construction equipment used for scanning for fiber optic cable, stolen in Perrysburg Township and estimated to be worth $10,000, was found.

“It’s just nice to be able to pick up the phone and deal with law enforcement agencies that are 150 to 200 miles away and have everybody just work together. It’s refreshing to have the teamwork that takes place in law enforcement. That’s how we solve these cases,” Curtis said.

Perrysburg Township police are asking for additional information related to suspicious activity at storage units involving other vehicles, including the Nissan Altima and a red GMC pick-up truck with chrome trim and extended cab. The truck did not have a cap. The third vehicle, stolen from Moraine, was a black 4-door 2013 Chrysler 200 with a stolen temporary tag, Curtis said.

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