Cleveland councilman calls for charges as more cars stolen with children in back seats

CLEVELAND- A veteran Cleveland councilman is demanding action after a FOX 8 I-Team report left him disgusted by the number of parents leaving children alone in running cars that are then stolen by thieves.

Councilman Mike Polensek has written a letter to the police chief, safety director, and the city prosecutor.

Polensek is calling for charges against parents or guardians for leaving kids in running cars in light of a growing number of cases with thieves jumping in and driving away with children in the back seats.

The councilman said to the I-Team, "Where's the sanity here? Why aren't we charging these parents, these guardians with child endangerment?" He added, "You put everybody at risk. And this is just pure negligence."

One case happened last week outside a convenience store. A woman stole a car with a child in the back seat, and citizens stopped the thief.

And last week, the I-Team revealed police video of officers chasing down a man who had stolen a car with a child left inside as the mother went into a gas station.

In his letter, Polensek wrote, “Parents/adults must he held responsible for the safety of their children...”

The I-Team tracked down the mother from last week's case, and she refused to answer questions for us. Instead, she rolled up her car window and drove off.

We also contacted the mother from the case with the recent wild chase, and she wouldn't comment either.

The I-Team wondered how often do parents face charges when they leave cars running with kids inside and cars get stolen? Cleveland police don't keep stats on that for these specific circumstances. We looked back at some cases over the last year and, in those cases, we found no parents charged.

Veteran investigators say some parents have been charged in cases like this, but it has not happened often.

Cleveland police responded to the councilman's letter with a statement. Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia wrote, "Parents are reminded that it is NEVER safe or appropriate to leave a child unattended in a running vehicle. Furthermore, parents are reminded that leaving a child unattended in a vehicle can result in criminal charges including Child Endangering."

Councilman Polensek said, "If you're gonna be a parent, be responsible for your children. That's all I'm asking for."

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