CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found DNA evidence often not collected in connection with an avalanche of cases involving stolen cars.

So, we investigated why.

Police in Northeast Ohio and nationwide have been swamped with reports of cars getting stolen. But, we found some of the latest technology is often not being used to solve cases.

On Cleveland’s west side, Kelly Samber told us she got her car back, but she worries about getting justice. She pointed out that her car was stolen last month and then later found by Cleveland police.

But, she told us she was stunned to be told by Cleveland police they would not be collecting fingerprints or DNA to track down the thief.

“There’s a pop can that wasn’t mine in there, a 7-Up can, there were blunts in there,” she said.
“They touched the entire car. They had my car for eight days.”

Samber’s car, a Kia, ended up at a police lot with so many other Kia vehicles.

Police have been overwhelmed lately with stolen cars, especially Kia and Hyundai models, the crime wave sparked by social media.

But, we’ve learned Cleveland police do not collect DNA to solve simple stolen car cases.

Two suburban police departments we checked with also do not collect DNA in those cases.

“It feels to me like no one is doing anything about it. You know, they’re not doing anything to them,” Samber said.

The I-Team recently reported on Brooklyn police arresting teens in a stolen Kia. We’ve seen suspects busted that way in Euclid, too.

But, what about not collecting DNA or more clues when car thieves are not caught in the act?

Police contacts tell the I-Team that some crime labs are often so backed up that investigators only send evidence for testing in the most serious crimes. For instance, a homicide, carjacking or sex assault.  

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation tells us that, for something like a stolen car, police should only send evidence a suspect may have left behind.

Steve Irwin, Press Secretary in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, sent a statement via email.

“The items accepted in property crimes are those likely to contain substantial DNA due to either containing saliva (such as bottles, cigarette butts, cans, etc.) or skin cells that are shed on to a piece of clothing. The idea is that an item left behind at a scene, like a tool, is likely one that someone has used repeatedly and therefore contacted the surface of the item over and over again, leaving more of their DNA on the item. Also, skin cells come off on clothing, so if someone leaves an item like a hat or a covid mask in a stolen car, we try to obtain DNA from those items. These items are more likely to be successfully tested as opposed to a dresser knob they may touch one time in order to open the drawer,” it said, in part.

Westlake police say they collect evidence from every stolen car they find. Captain Gerald Vogel said investigators there send a lab DNA samples from whatever didn’t belong to the owner.

“We process each one,” Capt. Vogel said. “We bring the owner of the car in to see if there’s anything foreign to the scene inside the car like a water bottle, a cigarette butt.”

These days, so many people are getting hit by the stolen car rage just like Samber. But, in the end, getting your car back may not mean it’ll be easy getting justice.

“I feel like we’re not going to get any justice,” Samber said.

Meanwhile, the cases keep piling up. Euclid just had six more in one day. One section of Cleveland recently had more than four-dozen in a few days. Many of the case are unsolved.