An SUV stolen from a Mission Hills driveway early Thursday led Prairie Village police on a chase that ended with the vehicle crashing into the yard of a Leawood house.
The incident began about 2 a.m. Thursday, said Capt. Byron Roberson with the Prairie Village Police Department, which provides police services for Mission Hills.
The department’s investigation and patrol division had been investigating a rash of more than a dozen burglaries and auto thefts in the area the past month.
“We ramped up our numbers at night to see if we could get ahold of” the people responsible for the crimes, Roberson said.
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During their investigation Thursday morning, detectives and patrol officers in both marked and unmarked vehicles and on bicycles saw some men tampering with vehicles and attempting to steal a vehicle.
The men had ridden bicycles into the area to allegedly commit the crimes.
“They brought the bikes, left the bikes and found a vehicle that unfortunately had the keys inside,” Roberson said. “They took the vehicle, and that’s when the pursuit began.”
Police chased the vehicle as it headed south on Belinder Avenue. At one point, police discontinued the pursuit because the speeds had gotten too high and the man was driving erratically.
“We have a very strict policy because it is a property crime for the most part, so we always have the public’s best interest at heart,” Roberson said.
The driver lost control of the vehicle and struck a light pole near Somerset Drive. The SUV then careened into a tree, ejecting one of the men. The other man was pinned in the vehicle when it came to rest in the yard of a house in the 2600 block of Somerset. Debris from the crash struck the house, but no one inside was injured.
Police arrested two men, who were taken to a hospital for treatment of critical injuries.
Homeowner Melanie Swift said she heard a thud about 2:30 a.m. When she peaked out the window, she saw the SUV “in her face.”
“I ran and woke my son up and I said, ‘Come, there’s a car in the house,’ ” she said. “The minute we opened the door the car caught fire.”
Her son got a hose and started putting out the fire. That’s when Swift heard the man who had been ejected calling for help from between her cars. Her son heard moaning coming from the SUV.
In addition to working nights, detectives had been working during the day gathering evidence from the previous burglaries, including DNA evidence and surveillance evidence from houses that were burglarized.
“We were able to use that information to try to develop a suspect, which we did,” Roberson said. “Once we got the suspects in custody, they are indeed some of the suspects we had developed from our leads. But they are one of many that are out there doing these types of crimes.”
He urged people to lock their vehicles and not to leave their valuables inside.
“There’s much more that happens than just your vehicle being stolen,” Roberson said. “They use these vehicles to commit other crimes. They use these vehicles to run from police, which unfortunately can create some very devastating results.”