A police operation has led to the arrest of three suspects in dozens of break-ins and thefts from stores and gas stations primarily in Southern Estonia, the Police and Border Guard Board PPA) announced.
The police operation was launched at approximately 4 a.m. on Tuesday, after a store security alarm went off in the Viljandi County village of Vastemõisa, and several suspicious-looking figures were seen fleeing the scene. The security company immediately contacted he police, and it was determined that there had been an attempt to enter the store through the window, which was hampered by security bars.
"Police began to search the area for the suspects, and soon found a Toyota in the village of Sürgavere that attempted to flee from the law enforcement officers before hitting the patrol vehicle," Viljandi Police Station Chief Margus Sass described. "As a result of the collision, the Toyota hit a tree and police officers managed to catch the driver of the vehicle. Two other men who had also been in the vehicle fled into the woods."
Police called in nearby patrols and rapid response forces and locked down the area. A police dog to arrive on scene picked up the trail and after an hour's search found one of the men who had hidden in the woods. The suspect, who was bitten by the K-9 in the process of being arrested, was administered first aid.
The search for the third suspect continued on land and via drone, until he was caught in the woods nearly eight hours later.
"As the break-ins ramped up in frequency, criminal police officers were working day and night to catch the suspects," Sass said. "Despite the fact that police officers have additional tasks right now, our regular work continues, and we will not leave any criminals in peace."
According to District Prosecutor Marja-Liina Talimaa of the Southern District Prosecutor's Office, the break-in suspects were previously familiar to law enforcement.
"As the suspects acted for an extended period of time premeditatedly and deliberately and committed their latest crime during a difficult time for society, the prosecution sought permission from Tartu County Court to take all three detainees into custody, which the court granted," Talimaa said. "Committing such crimes during a significantly more difficult situation than usual and a time of limited resources is incredibly irresponsible. Considering the scope of these crimes as well, if found guilty, the suspects will be sure to do actual prison time."
Upon prosecutors' request, Tartu County Court took three men, aged 30, 33 and 34, into custody on Wednesday and Thursday. The men may face up to five years in prison for theft. The pre-trial investigation will be conducted by the South Prefecture of the PPA under the direction of the South District Prosecutor's Office.
Editor: Aili Vahtla