2 Suspected of Breaking into 100 Cars--in Toledo

TOLEDO -- Two Toledoans suspected in up to 100 recent car break-ins are what the courts call "repeat offenders." The female suspect was arrested in June for theft. The man was convicted last year for the same.

News 11's Lisa Rantala found out why they weren't locked up.

The reason is simple -- and very frustrating for the courts. Suspects like these are considered non-violent offenders, so they're the first ones to be released early when the jails get crowded.

Lt. Bobby Leist with the Lucas County Sheriff's Office arrested Michelle Chester and Clarence Smith this week. The two are accused of breaking into nearly 100 cars and taking what was inside.

"They have problems," Leist says. "We knew from the get-go that these were our suspects."

Smith has more than a dozen theft and burglary charges that date back to 1985. Chester has a pending stolen property case from June.

"As far as incarcerating them pre-trial, there's not much we can do. We just don't have the space," says Toledo Municipal Judge Michael Goulding, adding that repeat offenders like these can and do get higher bonds and longer sentences to keep them in jail.

But due to a lack of beds, he says these non-violent suspects are usually the first freed.

"Then I've got to decide, alright, somebody has got to come out for somebody to go in," Judge Goulding says.

That's why judges look to alternatives, like keeping these offenders on a GPS system, electric monitoring or probation. But to keep them from reoffending while they're out -- well, there's no solution for that, the judge says.

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