Thursday, July 15, 2010

Useless Auto Theft Statistics

This past week the Houston Police Department released a list showing the most popular cars stolen during the previous month. I may have seen the news blurb on KPRC; but it was printed on the Montgomery County Police Reporter’s website . The information provided is pretty much useless; data regarding year models stolen should have been included.

I called HPD’s Auto Theft Division and asked for a detailed list of vehicles stolen, a list showing year models. The only person available was a receptionist; that in itself is telling. I explained how most of the newer vehicles used fancy electronic keys intended to prevent auto thefts; ignition systems which only respond to an authorized key. HPD’s report didn’t specify what year models had been stolen leaving some doubt as to whether or not fancy electronic keys actually prevented auto thefts. He explained how that information wasn’t easily obtained, at least not in Auto Theft Division and transferred me to the Public Relations Division where yet another receptionist could not answer my questions; but did take my phone number and promised to have someone call.

Transponder technology has altered the way cars and trucks are stolen. Thieves used to force an ignition switch to the start position and drive off into the night; nothing like waking up to find the pieces of broken window where your car used to be. That changed when electronic measures were integrated with mechanical keys. Each key must be programmed to the vehicle’s on board computer or the car won’t start; nearly impossible for most thieves to bypass. Now you walk out expecting to go to work and the locks are destroyed, your key won’t go in the hole; a hammer and wide blade screw driver having made the locks useless. The fact remains; the fancy anti-theft key system worked, your vehicle never moved and the thieves only got your radio and toll road change.

Last month, according to HPD’s report two vehicles topped the list; 132 Ford trucks and 116 Chevy trucks were stolen. That’s nice to know; but what year Ford trucks were stolen, it makes a difference. In 1998 Ford started putting transponder key systems in their F-150 line of trucks. Chevy has a similar transponder anti-theft system in most of their newer trucks as well. Of the 132 stolen Ford trucks and 116 Chevys, which ones had anti-theft transponder key systems? Which stolen vehicles had keys left in the ignition or were they actually part of a robbery where the owner was confronted with force rather than somebody stealing the vehicle through cover of darkness or stealth?

There are two basic categories for auto thieves, three if you count the ones who can only steal a car if the keys are left in the ignition while you’re inside the store purchasing this week’s lottery ticket. Some auto thieves only know how to steal older vehicles, the kind where brute force is used on the ignition. These are the same folks who destroy vehicles equipped with newer anti-theft technology designed to prevent this type of theft; too stupid or lazy to upgrade their minimal thieving skills.

I make a living bypassing fancy key systems; but I’m a licensed locksmith providing my skills for the rightful owner of vehicles. Auto thieves with advanced skills are the ones I want to know about. These folks are sharp and could probably make an honest living if they redirected their skills and stayed within the law; but they’d rather steal cars and truck so we call them thieves. They’ve figured out how to beat fancy anti-theft systems, bypassing programmable keys which were supposed to prevent cars or trucks from starting. This information was left off the police public service report.

There should be a breakdown of statistics to indicate which specific vehicles are being targeted, which vehicles are prone to theft and which ones actually are more difficult to steal. It wouldn’t be fair to let this fall between the cracks, “stay tuned for news at eleven” isn’t that how they tease us each night?

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


MK said...

These days with the advent of technology, there's no point trying to steal a radio, even those things are built with codes and what not. Besides car radios are pretty cheap as well.

And with some of the good cars, the audio system is integrated into the whole thing so it's just not worth the trouble.

Now the popular thing being stolen are those portable GPS devices, cell phones and other such items that people forget in the car.

Funny the way the world works, even the crooks have to adapt and change to survive.

T. F. Stern said...

MK, Adapt or get out of Dodge.