Thefts remain problem

Motor vehicle thefts may be declining in neighboring Tempe, but the number of automobiles stolen in Ahwatukee has increased slightly in the last two years.

Data from raidsonline, the site Phoenix Police use to give people access to current and historical crime data, show that car and truck thefts increased last year after a dip in 2014 from the previous year.

Car thefts in 2013 totaled 122, then dropped to 95 the following year, data show. But last year vehicle thefts increased to 104 incidents. So far this year, police have recorded 65 vehicle thefts in Ahwatukee.

Among Ahwatukee’s three zip codes, 85048 recorded half of all motor vehicles stolen  last year, according to the data.

Phoenix Police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said that while he couldn’t explain last year’s increase in vehicle thefts in Ahwatukee, his department continues to wage an aggressive campaign to educate owners on ways to avoid being victimized.

“The Police Department works to educate the public to help them protect their vehicle from theft. This includes reminding people to lock their cars and keep valuables out of site,” Sgt. Howard said.

The Phoenix Police and Tempe Police, also have detectives specifically assigned to auto thefts. Howard said these detectives are designated to “pro-active” and “reactive” auto theft investigative units, noting, “Together, the detectives can analyze and respond to developing trends more efficiently.” 

In 2006 it was reported that 2,420 motor vehicles were stolen in the city of Tempe, and last year in 2015 only 359 cars were stolen in Tempe, according to a statistics report given by a Tempe Public information officer.

The decrease in numbers can be credited to new technology, education and the assigning of detectives specifically to the auto theft issue, officials said.

“The increased sophistication of technology applied to theft prevention, no doubt has had a significant correlation to the decrease in auto thefts over the past decade,” PIO Molly Enright said in an email interview.

According to an annual report conducted by the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority, the technology installed over the last decade includes systems such as License Plate Reader or (LPR). The LPR system can scan thousands of license plates every day, covering parking lots, streets and highways to identify and recover stolen vehicles.

Enright said Tempe police assign special criminal detectives to property crimes such as residential burglary and auto thefts.

“Tempe PD works in partnership with local, state and regional law enforcement (to include cross-border cooperation with Canada and Mexico) on vehicle/auto parts theft and trafficking,” Enright said in the email.

Auto theft has also decreased in cities across the Valley including downtown Phoenix. Phoenix Police Sgt. Jonathan Howard credited education and enforcement to the rapid decline in car thefts.

While motor vehicle theft has decreased in recent years, Scottsdale Police Officer Kevin Watts reminds us that auto thefts should not be forgotten so easily.

“Auto theft is still an issue valley wide. Scottsdale, like other valley cities see these thefts every month,” Watts said.

In an email interview, Watts said that in recent years Scottsdale and other cities have taken “proactive” steps to stop auto thefts.

“This includes community education, use of bait vehicles, state auto theft task force and the Repeat Offender Program (ROP),” Watts explained.

Regarding auto theft prevention Enright urged residents to always lock their car when they leave it unattended, clear your vehicle of valuables and always remember where you parked.

            Surprisingly, having a luxury car does not mean you are a target for automobile thieves. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, it was reported that the 1997 Honda Civic was listed as the most stolen vehicle in 2014 in the state of Arizona.

The NICB conducted a “Hot Spots” and “Hot Wheels” report in 2015 that listed the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Arizona for the past year of 2014. After the Honda Civic, the second most stolen vehicle was the 1998 Honda Civic.

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