Anne Arundel County police said yesterday they have broken up an auto theft ring of four teen-agers accused of stealing or trying to steal 33 minivans in the county since last month.
On Monday, detectives arrested two 16-year-old cousins from Baltimore whom they linked, with a pair of Arnold teens arrested earlier, to 16 auto thefts and 17 attempted thefts that occurred between Nov. 1 and Dec. 10, most of them in Arnold and Cape St. Claire.
All of the vehicles involved were either mid-1990s Dodge Caravans or Plymouth Voyagers, which have similar door locks and ignition devices, said police Detective Todd Powell. Some of the thefts and attempted thefts occurred in Old Mill, Odenton and Glen Burnie.
Powell said the boys used some of the vans for transportation, stashing them in different locations around the county, and went joyriding in others.
"I think it originally started as a transportation thing, and then it became a fun thing and a challenge," he said.
The teen-agers have been charged as juveniles.
The break in the case came two weeks ago, when an Arnold woman called police after spotting two teen-agers driving her stolen minivan near Joyce Lane and Church Road, Powell said. Police blocked in the vehicle and arrested the youths, both 17 and Arnold residents, Powell said. They were released to their guardians.
On Friday, detectives searched a Baltimore residence where one of the 17-year-olds sometimes lived and found items that had been reported stolen from vans, including several laptop computers, portable radios and tools, they said. They also recovered two vans nearby.
On Monday night, they arrested the cousins, who lived in the house in the 3700 block of Pennington Ave. that was searched.