MANTENO — Manteno police have been busy with teams of burglars going through unlocked vehicles in the village.

Police Chief Al Swinford said these aren’t teens looking for money in a purse left in the vehicle. Rather, they are teams of four and five men traveling from Chicago to communities along interstates and major highways.

Swinford said a crew has traveled as far south as Clifton in Iroquois County.

He told village trustees at Monday’s board meeting that several agencies are working together to put a stop to this.

“In the last couple of months, these people have taken [burglaries] to a new level,” Swinford said, adding the teams are looking for money as well as keys left in the vehicle, whether on the street or in an unlocked garage.

There have been reports of burglars gaining entry to a home through a garage door opener found in an unlocked vehicle. Most of the incidents have occurred between 1 and 4 a.m., Swinford said.

However, on Sunday, a homeowner encountered a suspect in their garage at 6 p.m. The suspect was armed with a handgun, he said.

Officers pursued the suspect’s vehicle onto the interstate. The chase reached speeds of 100 mph before they broke off the pursuit. Swinford said the vehicle also was driving without lights.

Manteno Mayor Tim Nugent said while they want to catch the suspects, they also have to think of the safety of residents and drivers.

“The 9 o’clock routine is now the all-the-time routine,” Nugent said.

The 9 p.m. routine is one in which police agencies post on social media each night before 9 p.m. a reminder for people to check that their vehicles, garages and homes have been locked.

The village recently posted signs on utility poles in the village reminding residents of the 9 p.m. routine.

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