Gone in less than 60 seconds -- law enforcement experts say your car can get stolen in just half that time if it’s the right target and a trained thief.
Auto thefts are up 17 percent in Alameda County from 2011 to 2012, but the figures for the individual East Bay cities are mostly above that. Marc Hinch, a California Highway Patrol investigator and member of the Alameda County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, said it’s the second year in a row of increasing auto thefts, despite years before that showed a declining trend. For Hinch, the concern lies even more on what happens after the crooks steal the vehicles.
“It’s linked to everything because they use stolen cars to commit robberies, burglaries,” Hinch said. “Auto theft leads to everything, it leads to dope, weapons, identity theft. I was in Hayward a few months ago following a girl in stolen car, watched her park it, get out, walk around, steal mail out of a bunch of mailboxes, and get back in. We took her off and she was a major identity thief.”
The number of stolen identities, Hinch added, has led to more stolen vehicles: rental cars. “People are going into rental car agencies using stolen identities and credit cards to rent cars.”
So what are the most targeted cars? Turns out the Honda Accord (years 1990-1997) has reclaimed the number one spot, followed closely by any 90s model of the Honda Civic. Third is the 1989-1991 Toyota Camry, but the number of thefts drops significantly. Hinch added, “If it’s a 90s Honda, they need a quick ride, they know how to get in the car and they can steal it usually within 30 seconds.”
Mia Rojas of San Lorenzo knows this all too well. She said when she walked to her car after working the overnight shift at her San Leandro store, she realized someone had tried to steal her 1993 Civic Hatchback. “My boyfriend looked at it and it looked like someone was trying to ‘Slim Jim’ it.”
While Hinch encouraged drivers to use steering wheel locks, Rojas, a mother of two, said she believes it’s something else that deterred thieves from making off with her car: the detachable steering wheel. “Obviously, it worked for me, so I’m definitely going to keep doing that!”
One last note, while those 90s Hondas remain the biggest target, Hinch said there’s a new trend of stolen Ford F-250s, which have a less complex key system compared to the F-150s. He said because the F-250s tend to be used by construction workers, they contain recyclable metals and valuable tooks – making them nicer targets for auto thieves. As for the higher end vehicles, Hinch said the most common way they are stolen is when the owners leave their car running.