Police identified the stolen vehicle as a red 1992 Jeep Cherokee.

Police are investigating a string of automobile break-ins on Garfield Street.

An unidentified suspect broke in to five vehicles on the first block of Garfield Street early Monday morning, smashing several car windows to gain entry and fleeing in a stolen car. Police identified the stolen vehicle as a red 1992 Jeep Cherokee.

All five vehicles were vandalized in a one-block stretch, Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness said.

"This was kind of unusual," Holderness said. "It wasn't so much a break-in to take things. They were breaking in to try and steal the vehicle."

Police found evidence of attempted car theft in several of the vehicles: the steering wheel was broken off of the front panel in at least two of the cars, and the ignition wires were clearly tampered with.

"It looked like someone was breaking into the cars with the attempt to steal one," Holderness said. He said he believes the break-ins occurred between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Monday morning. Officers received the first call just after 6 a.m.

Holderness said burglaries from unattended cars are not unusual, with such thefts taking place throughout town every year. In those cases, the motive is most often property theft, with CDs, iPods and other loose electronics taken from inside.

The activity that occurred Monday is seen much less frequently in Ashland, Holderness said.

"We only get half a dozen motor vehicle thefts a year," he said. "This is not real common."

The break-ins came on the heels of multiple reported thefts from parked cars around Medford. Police there responded to at least 16 cases of theft in the past several days.

Holderness said the department has no reason to believe the Ashland break-ins are related in any way to the Medford activity. But he did say the department would collaborate with Medford officials to pursue leads on the cases in either city.

"Generally we meet with Medford and area detectives once a week. We will take information from our incidents to the meeting next week," he said.

Police are continuing their investigation of the vehicle theft, as well as the break-ins. Police assume the unlawful entries were carried out by the same party, but do not know if the suspect was an individual or in a group. The jeep's license plates were recorded, and the car has been registered as stolen.

"Any (police officer) in the U.S. can now stop the car and know if it is stolen. If anybody sees it we could obviously be informed," Holderness said.

Anyone with information on the break-ins is asked to call the Ashland Police Department at 488-2211.

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com.