Bait Cars Among Ploys in Lower Arizona Auto Theft

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Arizona, the nation’s top state for auto theft, may be reversing the trend, says the Arizona Republic. Several cities, including Phoenix and Mesa, are reporting the first significant declines in years during 2003’s first three months. “I think we are right on the verge of bumping Arizona out of the distinction of being Number 1,” said Mikel Longman, Arizona Auto Theft Authority executive director. Since the early 1990s, auto thefts per capita in Arizona have skyrocketed. The state ranked first nationally for auto thefts from 1991 to 2001, according to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

Phoenix reported a 9.6 percent decrease in auto thefts during the first quarter of 2003 compared with the same three months last year, to 10,311 from 11,401.

Among the factors law enforcement officials believe are having an impact are:

• Bait cars. Police plant vehicles in high-crime areas, and when thieves take off, police are able to disable the vehicle and nab them.

• Free window etching. Police in several cities have held events where vehicle identification numbers are permanently etched on windows, making it costly for thieves to mask the identity of the vehicle and easier for police to find them.

• Public awareness campaigns. They often include distribution of free steering-wheel locks at public-safety fairs, block-watch parties and community events. Police say residents should use a layered approach, with an alarm system, locking windows and doors and having a visual deterrent like a steering-wheel lock.


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