Monday, 27 May 2024

Car thefts down statewide; up in Lake County

LAKE COUNTY – While car thefts were down statewide in 2006 and more stolen vehicles were returned to their owners statewide, local statistics show a sharp growth in car thefts, according to a recent report from the California Highway Patrol.

Locally, 155 vehicles were stolen and 152 recovered, said Josh Dye, public affairs officer for the Clear Lake CHP Office. The following year, 186 stolen vehicles were stolen, and 160 recovered, Dye added.

That amounts to a 20-percent increase in local car thefts, relative to statewide statistics.


The CHP said there was a 5.5-percent decline in car thefts statewide between 2005 and 2006, which amounts to 14,399 fewer cars stolen.

In 2006 the majority of cars stolen were recovered, according to the CHP, which said 90 percent of the 247,896 cars stolen in 2006 were reunited with their owners.

CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said car theft is a “crime of opportunity.”

“A little bit of prevention can go a long way, but when a car is stolen, the tools we have now are helping to return the stolen cars to their rightful owners,” Brown said.

The CHP reported it's a part of 16 county-funded vehicle theft task forces across the state, which include various law enforcement agencies that use bait cars to combat auto theft.

Those bait cars are outfitted with a global-positioning system (GPS) and a video camera, which hep track the location, speed and direction of the vehicle being tracked, the CHP reported.

Officers are tipped off when a thief attempts to steal a car; as soon as officers are in position, the engine can be disabled with the click of a computer mouse and officers can arrest the suspect inside, according to the CHP. The video footage is then used as evidence in court to prosecute the suspect.

That bait car technique, the CHP said, has proved to be a successful deterrent – more than 95 percent of the time, if an activation occurs on a bait car, the thief will eventually steal the car and will also be arrested.

The CHP reported that in 2006, the department made 357 arrests from bait car deployments.

“Criminals are beginning to wonder what is, and what isn’t, a bait car,” said Brown.

In the effort to recover stolen cars, the CHP uses the automated license plate recognition (ALPR) system, which has helped the agency to seize or recover 868 wanted or stolen vehicles, worth more than $7 million. In the process, CHP also arrested 535 suspects through the period ending September 2006.

The system, mounted onto marked patrol cars, reads license plates of vehicles and compares them against the state's database of stolen and wanted vehicles, the CHP said. Currently, the CHP reports it has a 73-percent recovery rate using ALPR.

“It’s like an electronic hot sheet; it allows officers to obtain information instantly on a car’s license plate to see if it belongs to a stolen car,” said Brown.

Stanislaus County, an area particularly hard hit by vehicle theft in recent years, has noticed a difference since the implementation of the new auto-theft technology. That county saw a 40.6 percent decrease in the number of vehicles stolen from 2005 to 2006.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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