2003 Vehicle Theft Award of Merit

Category 1 (0-250 Officers) Winner:
Oceanside, California, Police Department,
of which Michael S. Poehlman is the Chief

"Project 10851," a multifaceted, agency-wide effort involving the prosecutor's office, commenced with one goal, one objective, and one restriction: to reduce the overall incidence of vehicle theft, to increase public awareness of means by which to reduce this crime, and to expend no additional funds, respectively. Past vehicle thefts were analyzed; "Auto Theft Guidelines," including "chop-shop" activities and possession of burglar tools, were developed to increase successful prosecutions; and informational and preventive messages were disseminated via neighborhood presentations, various media, brochures in both English and Spanish, and utility bills. Project 10851 not only reduced vehicle thefts 22% in the first calendar quarter of 2002 compared to the same three-month period of 2001, but it streamlined the manner in which these cases were handled internally and fostered greater cooperation and improved understanding between patrol officers and detectives.

Category 2 (251-1,000 Officers) Winner:
Howard County, Maryland, Department of Police,
of which G. Wayne Livesay is the Chief

Howard County's population increased 22% during the past nine years, but its number of auto thefts decreased 47% during those very years via a combination of interrelated enforcement and prevention strategies. Its recovery rate for stolen vehicles in 2002 was 73%. Howard County's successes were achieved via the following strategies: • A vehicle theft prevention specialist re-contacts each victim to supply awareness measures, to seek additional leads, and to provide quality control; and the Auto Theft Unit is tasked with investigating each such theft. • Howard County police officers are individually trained and certified by its Auto Theft Unit in the LoJack Anti-Theft Tracking System, resulting in 100% of those stolen vehicles equipped with LoJack being recovered in 2002. • Over 1,000 The Club(r) anti-theft devices have been distributed to the owners of vehicles that are commonly stolen, particularly to senior citizens and to those who park at frequently-targeted locations. Presentations that actively promote the VIN etching and "Watch Your Car" programs have been made at such locations as senior expos and park-and-rides. • The Department of Police has formed partnerships with new vehicle dealerships to prevent the making of replacement keys for individuals who purportedly had lost their keys, but could supply VINs; and to provide them with maps and statistical information about auto thefts in Howard County. • Auto theft investigators aggressively develop informants, frequently network with other law enforcement agencies, conduct surveillance, and exchange information with patrol officers. • All recovered vehicles are processed for evidence.

Category 3 (1,001+ Officers) Winner:
Ohio State Highway Patrol,
of which Paul D. McClellan is the Superintendent

The Patrol has partnered with local law enforcement agencies and an insurance company to implement Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology to target vehicle theft, as well as "chop-shop" operations. The Patrol improved its long-time "bait car" approach with the addition of GPS technology; reduced thereby the untold hours of ofttimes-unproductive surveillance involved in these cases; and increased the number of apprehensions, successful prosecutions, and recoveries.

The Patrol instituted an annual ACE Award for excellence in auto larceny enforcement for troopers who recover five or more stolen vehicles and who effect arrests in connection with those cases; the Ohio Department of Insurance underwrites the cost of displaying a photo of each awardee on a billboard in his/her Post area. Thirty-three troopers were recognized for this award in 2002, the largest number in more than two decades. Additionally, the trooper who recovers the most stolen vehicles earns the Blue Max Award, receiving in 2002 one of the Patrol's first new white cruisers.

The Patrol's efforts resulted in 2002 in the recovery of 946 stolen vehicles and in the arrest of 841 suspects.

Category 4 (Multi-agency task forces) Winner:
Ontario, Canada, Provincial Auto Theft Team's (PATT's) "Project POPCAN,"
which Stephen Boyd administers

From 1999 until August 2001, PATT's one police officer and one member of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency intercepted approximately eight stolen vehicles per month during attempts to export them out of Canada, but realized they were missing far more.

Project POPCAN was piloted 2001, both to measure the number of stolen vehicles being shipped overseas from the Greater Toronto Area and to investigate the Organized Crime cells responsible for attempting to export these vehicles. The involvement of African, Asian, Eastern European, and Russian cells-as well as an alarming increase in the theft of high-end vehicle keys during nighttime residential burglaries while victims were asleep-had been identified during the first three months of this operation.

Project POPCAN was supported in 2002, by the Ontario Provincial Police's Organized Crime Section, as well as by its Central and Greater Toronto Regions; the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; the RCMP; the Durham Regional, Toronto, Waterloo Regional, and York Regional Police Services; and the Insurance Crime Bureau. Its aim was to dismantle the identified organized crime cells by targeting those responsible for exporting stolen vehicles in a concerted effort to reduce both the demand for high-end stolen vehicles and the incidence of burglaries.

Project POPCAN recovered in 2002 compared to 2001, twice as many (192) high-end stolen vehicles worth in excess of $10 million; charged 39 individuals with 160 criminal charges; identified the involvement of over 1,100 persons in these operations; gathered considerable criminal intelligence with which to launch additional investigations; and cooperated at a new level of intensity with law enforcement agencies and governments outside Canada. The Organized Crime cells also are involved in re-VINing, "chop-shops," cargo thefts, weapons offenses, and narcotics distribution.

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