Vehicle thefts down in state

first_img“I think what we’re doing here is sending a message that auto theft is a personal thing for many Californians, it’s a personal thing for us in law enforcement,” CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said. “We want to stop it.” Officials said the declines come at least in part because of new technology. Owners are increasingly using devices that lock steering wheels, columns or brakes, as well as purchasing vehicle theft and tracking/security systems. Law enforcement officials also are using more “bait cars.” Left in high-theft areas, the vehicles sometimes are left with keys inside or the engine running. But they are equipped with tracking devices, and cameras inside capture audio and video. Once stolen, the vehicle sends a signal to a laptop computer inside a patrol car that could be sitting miles away. Officers track the vehicle and arrest the driver. They can even use remote control to forcefully halt the car by stopping the engine. Last year, the CHP made 357 arrests using such cars. Sgt. Shawn McCarthy of the CHP Southern Division Vehicle Theft Unit said the agency’s bait vehicles are rotated to different divisions, particularly to high-crime areas. “We’ve worked the Altadena and Baldwin Park areas,” he said. “They tell us where their bad areas are, where there are lots of stolen vehicles, and that’s where we’ll put these cars.” Officials are also using Automated License Plate Recognition systems in which multiple cameras mounted on patrol cars randomly and automatically scan license plates of cars and run them through a database of cars reported stolen. The systems led to 535 arrests and the recovery of 868 vehicles last year, Brown said. Officer Edmund Zorrilla, the public information officer for the Baldwin Park CHP, said there have been a couple officers from his station that have had the opportunity to ride in the camera cars. Carmakers have also increased their security measures. “As the new-model cars come out, more and more of them are having anti-theft devices built in,” said Chris McGoey, a private security consultant based in Los Angeles. “Most new cars from mid-price on up have built-in alarms. More are coming with key-coding systems. The alarm systems are definitely cheaper than they used to be.” Local jurisdictions throughout California have also stepped up efforts to fight auto theft. There are at least 16 auto-theft task forces throughout the state that combine resources with local and state agencies. In Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors in 1992 authorized an additional fee on motor-vehicle registration to create TRAP, the Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention. The task force pools resources from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, LAPD, CHP and other agencies to target organized car-theft rings that ship vehicles out of the country. But Lt. David Moeller, a CHP officer who works in L.A. County with the task force, said even as anti-theft measures have gotten more sophisticated, the thieves have adapted. Now, he said, they are using identity-theft techniques in conjunction with car theft. “Crooks are becoming a smarter breed,” Moeller said. “There are a lot of crooks that really know the ins and outs of all these automobiles. “Some of them are very sophisticated. We’ve had cases where crooks have created \ identities for people, including credit histories, and then gone out and purchased vehicles.” Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said multiple steps are recommended to prevent auto theft. The first – and most basic – is to lock the car and take the keys, even when making a quick stop at a convenience store. “People will run into a 7-Eleven \and grab a quick cup of coffee,” Scafidi said. “They come back out and the car is gone. Other steps include parking in well-lighted areas near pedestrian traffic and buying alarms or ignition locks. And while the list of most-stolen vehicles in California is full of 1990s Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords – valuable for their utilitarian parts – flashy cars are also targets. harrison.sheppard@dailynews.com (916) 446-6723 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Auto theft in California dropped last year for the first time this decade, stemmed by increasingly aggressive technologies to combat crime, law enforcement officials said Thursday. Statewide, nearly a quarter-million vehicles – 247,896 – were stolen last year, but that was still a 5.5 percent drop from the previous year, according to data from the California Highway Patrol. That means some 14,000 more Californians than the previous year parked their vehicles somewhere and returned hours later to find it still there. Los Angeles County’s drop was even steeper, down 6.5 percent with 66,727 vehicles stolen, while Ventura County saw a 7.6 percent drop. last_img

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