Every 15 minutes: Auto thefts on the rise
PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES
Thieves' favorite vehicles
In 2001, the top three stolen vehicles in the United States were Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Honda Civic, respectively. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area, the same three cars topped the list with the Honda Accord in the No. 1 spot and the Toyota Camry is in third. The 2002 King County Crime Report indicates that the Honda, with 24 percent, and Toyota, with 17 percent, are the most stolen cars in Shoreline. Results from the previously mentioned SCC survey showed that two out of the five cars reported stolen were the Toyota Camry and one was a Honda Accord.
One reason for the popularity of Toyotas and Hondas among thieves is the availability of "shaved keys." According to Michael Williams, a detective with the King County Sheriffs Office. "If you have a key to a 1984 Toyota Camry, and you shave it down the right way, you can start every Toyota Camry from 1984 to 1990."
Furthermore, 2001 statistics show the Honda Accord as the most-sold car, followed by Toyota Camry and Honda Civic in the United States. Therefore, it is a simple matter of economics for auto thieves. More of these vehicles are necessary to satisfy the market for illegal parts and export to other nations.
Careless car owners contribute to theft
One might assume that people's common sense causes them to always lock their car, roll up the windows and not leave valuables visible in their cars. However, statistics prove differently.
According to a survey by Progressive Insurance, 55 percent of those surveyed said they leave their car doors unlocked, and 34 percent leave the windows open when leaving their vehicle unattended. Six percent leave the key in the vehicle when leaving their car.
The survey among 41 SCC students shows a greater level of care: 73 percent of the students always close their windows and lock their cars. However, Security Sgt. Becky Gibler, SCC Security and Safety Office said this isn't the case for many students.
"I see purses, cell phones, money, textbooks, expensive jackets and shoes. You just would not believe what people leave lying right in the open," she said, also noting that a lot of the people who leave belongings visible in their cars also have their windows cracked open or leave the doors unlocked.
In the cold winter months, people like to start their cars and let them warm up while they run back inside to get ready to leave. A running, unattended and unlocked car is saying, "Steal me." In January 2000, 18 cars which had been left running and unattended while warming up had been stolen within two weeks in South King County. Tacoma Police is now punishing this "open invitation" with an $86 fine. Any police department can write this citation if your car is parked on the street to warm up. Driveways are OK.
For thieves, finding a car with the key in the ignition is a wonderful invitation to steal. The car is just waiting for them, and no forced entry is necessary. Williams knows of a teenage "chronic auto thief" who has probably stolen 20 cars in the last three years using this method.
"He steals vehicles always at the same time in the morning where people come outside, turn their car on to warm it up and go back inside," Williams said. "He has never broken a window to get in, he's never popped the lock, nothing."
Who is stealing your car?
© 2003 Shoreline Community College