Wichita A burglary ring that used teenagers to break into cars and homes in sections of Wichita committed up to 250 crimes and cost property owners an estimated $225,000 in losses, Wichita police said.
The ring, which involved four adults and 12 high school students, committed most of its crimes in north and east Wichita, Sedgwick County Sheriff's deputy Capt. Jeff Easter said Thursday. One of the group's leaders pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges last week and a second faces a jury trial next month, the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office said. Criminal charges have been brought in 35 cases.
"We've noticed a definite decline in burglaries" since the ring was broken up three weeks ago, Easter said.
One leader of the group, Jonathan Thompson, pleaded guilty last week to two counts of burglary and six counts of theft. He is set for sentencing on June 22. A co-defendant, Jordan Smith, is scheduled to go on trial next month. A third person suspected of having a major role in the ring is still being sought, Easter said.
Easter said the ring watched the neighborhoods until homeowners were gone and then would break into homes or vehicles. The stolen property would be taken to Smith, who would sell it and split the proceeds with the juveniles, he said.
"There was a lot of (juveniles) that didn't have other things to do," he said. "They were taking off during school hours to commit burglaries, and coming back to school."
Most of the juveniles involved are gang members, Easter said, but the burglaries were not gang activity but simply ways to raise cash.
Susan Bane, president of the Ken Mar Neighborhood Association, said she was pleased to learn of the arrests.
"I was so excited about that," Bane said. "It really affected a lot of people."
Officers began noticing a pattern in the burglaries last May and a task force involving several departments was formed. Officers began collecting fingerprints and DNA from blood left behind when burglaries broke windows.