Category 1 (0-250 Officers)
Winner: Easton, Maryland, Police Department; Chief George M. Harvey
The members of the Easton Police Department are using random foot patrol to interact with citizens, to educate motorists, and to safeguard personal property. Officers are encouraged to identify those unattended vehicles that present excellent targets for thieves, i.e., those in which the keys have been left, as well as those in which unsecured change, pocketbooks, shopping bags, and telephones are readily visible. Once officers observe any of the foregoing problem(s), they issue and leave on the vehicles’ windshields parking ticket-like notices, which list the “crime prevention violations” the officers observed; the officers remove those keys that had been left in ignitions.
Easton police officers logged during 2001 over 7,000 hours’ foot patrol and issued 2,911 Operation D.A.D. (Detect and Deter) citations. Only four vehicle thefts were reported last year, and all of those vehicles have been recovered.
Category 3 (1001+ Officers)
Winner: Department of California Highway Patrol; Commissioner D.O. Helmick
The State of California recorded 204,679 vehicles stolen in 2001, of which 179,372 of them—or 88%—were recovered; the recoveries were valued at $1.1 billion. In order to achieve this high theft-to-recovery ratio, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) employed a multi-faceted, proactive approach to vehicle theft utilizing myriad efforts, a representative sample of which is set forth below:
- Support for—and implementation of—legislation
- which eventually funded 17 county task forces coordinated by the CHP to increase effectiveness
- which reduced thefts and protected innocent purchasers from buying rebuilt salvage vehicles containing stolen component parts by deeming the frame the identifying factor for registration purposes. In 2001 alone, Salvage Vehicle Inspection Program (SVIP) officers—a joint effort between the CHP and Department of Motor Vehicles—conducted 27,545 inspections, and recovered 101 stolen vehicles with altered VINs and 418 component parts.
- which expanded statewide the Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP). In 2001 alone, this program effected 80 arrests, and recovered 513 stolen commercial vehicles and 146 cargos valued at $34.7M.
- which funded “The Organized Crime and Victim Protection Act” to team up Insurance Department representatives with investigators and prosecutors to attack organized automobile fraud rings
- Initiated or continued successful awareness and education programs, as well as community partnerships:
- the Californians Help Eliminate Auto Theft (Cal H.E.A.T.) Program
- the Anti-Car Theft “the HEAT is on” Campaign
- the multi-jurisdictional Statewide Vehicle Theft Advisory Committee (SVTAC) to seek enhanced vehicle theft interdiction methods using automated license plate readers
- the enhanced and expanded Vehicle Theft Investigation Course for newly-assigned investigators from agencies throughout the state
- the “bait car” program.
Category 4 Winner:
The Task Force operates under the auspices of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, of which Dennis A. Garrett is the Director.
Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force; Lieutenant Mikel A. Longman
Between 1993 and 1997, the State of Arizona earned the dubious honor of being the number one state for vehicle theft per capita. In response, its legislature enacted in 1996 a statute creating the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA), which is funded by an annual $1.00 assessment on each Arizona-insured vehicle. The Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force, a statewide, multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional vehicle-theft operation, was created in 1996 and became fully-operational in 1997. Seventeen different agencies from eight of Arizona’s 15 counties currently participate; it has formed strong partnerships both with Mexican authorities and with the Arizona Division of Motor Vehicles.
The success of the Task Force has been achieved through aggressive, proactive enforcement; enhanced training of law enforcers; and ongoing public awareness and community education programs. It has supported legislation reclassifying, as well as enhancing the penalties for, vehicle-related crimes. It is in the process of implementing the Border Auto Theft Information Center (BATIC), the aim of which is to aid in the recovery, in Mexico, of stolen U.S. vehicles. It has established and publicized a statewide toll-free “tip” line for the anonymous reporting of vehicle-theft crimes and other suspicious activities, and it will distribute steering-wheel locking devices to citizens who register for the Watch Your Car program.
Several highlights from its 2001 efforts underscore its success:
- The recovery of eight stolen vehicles, the seizure of two additional vehicles, the arrest of nine suspects, and the detention of 50 undocumented aliens
- The purchase of three stolen Hondas and one stolen new Chevrolet Tahoe, as well as the indictment of two persons, in an undercover operation
- The apprehension—via a wire tap—of an individual who had rammed police vehicles with stolen vehicles and who had threatened to murder a police officer or a member of a police officer’s family
- Recovered—in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department—a stolen handgun and several “high-dollar” vehicles which had been stolen in California, which had been fraudulently sold in Arizona, and which had a total value of approximately $890,000.00
For every $1.00 of AATA funds that the Task Force spent in 2001, it recovered $14.13 in stolen property; that equates to the recovery of an average 74 stolen vehicles per Task Force officer!