With auto thefts continuing at a high rate in Stanislaus County, investigators from the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force are hoping to curb the problem by raising awareness about prevention tactics that may stop thieves from getting behind the wheel of purloined vehicles.
The county-wide campaign kicks off today by giving away free anti-theft steering wheel locking devices to owners of the top nine most stolen cars in Stanislaus County.
The auto theft task force was able to purchase the anti-theft devices with funding assistance from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Allstate Insurance Company.
"Many commonly stolen cars are taken for their parts, not the joyrides we see on TV or in the movies," said Tim Rowen, Allstate agent in Turlock. "For many vehicles, the parts are worth more separately than the vehicle as a whole. Auto theft is among the crimes that drive up what everyone pays for car insurance."
Auto theft in the Central Valley has been a continuing challenge for local law enforcement officers. For the past five years the Modesto Metropolitan Area, which includes all of Stanislaus County, has ranked nationally in the top five areas as having the highest auto theft rates per capita. Even though the county saw a 12.6 percent decrease in stolen vehicles from 2010 to 2011, vehicle theft continues to be a high priority for local agencies, including StanCATT, which is a multi-agency team of investigators dedicated to stopping auto thefts.
"StanCATT remains highly committed to reducing the rate of auto theft within Stanislaus County" said Lt. Larry Chambers of StanCATT. "Through combined efforts of California law enforcement agencies, coupled with prevention efforts by the public, California has seen a reduction in the number of vehicle thefts statewide for five years in a row."
Stanislaus County law enforcement has been successful in recovering over 90 percent of the stolen vehicles, according to officials.
Beginning with this campaign, officers will be taking a more preventative approach to auto thefts by highlighting a common sense approach to protection. Auto theft investigators recommend people secure their vehicles even if parking for a brief period and always remove the keys from the ignition and lock the doors and close the windows. Parking in a well-lit area also is recommended.
"StanCATT would like to commend the public for their efforts in discouraging vehicle theft within Stanislaus County," Chambers said. "Through their assistance, and StanCATT's continued aggressive enforcement, we are confident we can continue reducing the rate of auto thefts within our county."
Investigators have identified the top nine most stolen vehicles in Stanislaus County as:
1. 1989 to 1997 Honda Accord
2. 1988 to 2000 Honda Civic
3. 1987 to 1991 Toyota Camry
4. 1990 to 1998 Acura Integra
5. 1984 to 1988 Toyota Tacoma
6. 1993 to 1995 Saturn SL
7. 1992 to 1994 Nissan Sentra
8. 1996 to 2007 Chevy Silverado
9. 2002 to 2004 Cadillac Escalade
The Stanislaus County Auto Theft Taskforce will be launching the campaign at the Modesto Police Department by providing free steering wheel locks between 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. The three requirements to receive a lock are: Own a vehicle on the top nine most stolen vehicle list; vehicle must be currently registered; and owner must be a resident of Stanislaus County.
After the event the clubs will be available at all participating agencies throughout Stanislaus County.
Police ask anyone who may have information regarding the identity of suspected auto thieves to call Crime Stoppers toll free at 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can also text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type "TIP704" along with your message.