Members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigate the scene of an accident on Empire Avenue Wednesday morning. The van was apparently stolen and burst into flames after it crashed through a sign in the area. Two suspects were taken into custody following the crash and police were searching for a third person. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Two incidents early Wednesday morning left two stolen cars in flames and three youths in custody.
A 16-year-old male and a 17-year-old female were arrested after they reportedly stole a minivan, sped from police and crashed it on Empire Avenue before making a run for it.
In a second incident, a 15-year-old male was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a car on Newfoundland Drive.
The vehicles in both incidents had reportedly been stolen from the east end of St. John’s.
RNC officers and the K-9 unit were in the area Tuesday night doing extra patrols after receiving several reports of stolen vehicles or attempted stolen vehicles.
About 4:30 a.m. on Macdonald Drive, officers spotted a minivan which had been reported stolen.
Officers tried to stop the van, but it sped off. Officers pursued it, but called off the chase in the Avalon Mall area after the van reached speeds that were considered dangerous.
“Officers abandoned the chase in the interest of public safety, as well as the safety of the three occupants in the (van),” RNC Const. Jennifer Clarke told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Police lost sight of the van, but shortly after, got a report it had collided with a pole on Empire Avenue.
The van reportedly smashed through a sign in front of the Legal Aid Commission, across from the Taxation Centre, and caught fire.
Three people were seen running from the van.
Officers chased them, but could only manage to catch two.
A third person got away. Clarke couldn’t comment on the person’s age or whether the person was male or female.
The investigation is continuing.
The male who was arrested has been charged with dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police and breaches of court orders.
The female is charged with possessing stolen property.
The second incident happened just before 5 a.m.
Members of the K-9 unit were flagged down by a member of the public, who told them there was a car on fire on Newfoundland Drive.
Clarke said the police dog was able to pick up a scent and officers tracked down a teenager they suspected was responsible nearby.
The 15-year-old was arrested and faces six charges — arson and possessing stolen property, along with four counts of breaching conditions of a youth sentence.
There was another car fire on LeMarchant Road early Wednesday morning, but Clarke had no updated information on that incident.
She said there is nothing to confirm either of the two incidents were related.
In all, she said there were five reports of stolen or attempted stolen vehicles in the east end Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
The issue is ongoing problem in all areas of the metro area, she said.
“It’s one of those things we’re trying to stay on top of,” Clarke said.
She said installing an alarm on your vehicle and parking it in a well-lit area can deter potential thieves.