AAA News Release: 6/25/2012




Thefts from Cars Constitute the Lion’s Share – Nearly 85% – Of All Car-Related Thefts

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Monday, June 25, 2012) – Not too long ago worried car owners were doing everything in their power to protect themselves from carjackers and their cars from professional car thieves. Now they are concerned about thefts from their cars, and for good reason. It happened more than seven thousand times in the District last year and the year before that too.

Would-be car thieves and other brazen bandits are changing their tactics and going after easier pickings – car components, cash, coins, and, even clothes, left inside the car and the trunk, warn local police officials and AAA Mid-Atlantic. To throw you off-guard, they are striking in broad daylight and under the cloak of night.

“It’s a strange reversal, car thefts are down across the Washington metro area, but car break-ins are on the increase, as wily thieves shift their patterns and habits to take advantage of unsuspecting motorists,” noted John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “First things first: don’t be complacent about this. Just lock your vehicle before you leave it on the street, in a public garage, or in a parking lot. It covers a multitude of sins and it is one of the most effective ways of preventing your car from being stolen or broken into. Number two: make sure to remove all valuables from view. To do otherwise would only attract thieves.”

Thefts From Vehicles In Washington, D.C.*

Year Number of Incidents
2010 7,000 vehicle larcenies
2011 7,841 vehicle larcenies
2012 (Through June 12) 3,261 vehicle larcenies

The problem is widespread, in fact. So far this year, thieves have stolen objects from more than three thousand automobiles in Washington, D.C., according to preliminary crime figures from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). It is also happening on residential streets in the nation’s capital; in Metro garages and parking lots and even along the quiet streets and driveways in Culpeper, Virginia. These days, theft from cars comprises “about 85 percent of all car-related thefts,” according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.

As of June 12, 2012, thieves have stolen items from 3,261 vehicles in Washington, D.C. proper, statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department show. During 2011, lawbreakers looted valuables from 7,841 vehicles in the District, compared to the 7,000 vehicles ransacked in the city a year earlier, during 2010. That’s not the only hotspot for such thievery.

Thefts From Vehicles At Metro Stations

Time Period Caper
July Through December 2010 203 larcenies from autos + 53 thefts of auto parts and accessories
July Through December 2011 180 larcenies from autos + 31 thefts of auto parts and accessories

Last month, nine cars were stolen by devious crooks from Metro parking lots and garages and there were nineteen police-reported cases of thefts from automobiles, according to the Metro Transit Police Blotter. What’s more, there were ten attempted motor vehicle thefts at Metro sites during the period from May 2 through May 31, 2012, an analysis of the crime data by AAA Mid-Atlantic shows.

In the six-month period from July to December 2010, there were 203 cases of larceny from autos in Metro’s parking facilities and 53 cases of thefts of auto parts and accessories in Metro’s parking facilities, compared to 108 auto thefts or attempted auto thefts, according to an analysis of Metro Transit Police Department’s (MTPD) security reports issued in December 2011 and March 2012.

That compares to a slight decrease of 180 auto-related larcenies, 31 thefts of auto parts and accessories, and 53 auto thefts or attempts to pull off the crime in the period from July to December 2011. Year-to-year, there were 299 reported larcenies in 2010 and 266 police-reported cases of the crime in 2011, notes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates parking facilities at 42 Metrorail stations, including 49 parking lots.

The crime includes “the thefts of items left in cars, thefts of interior components such as radios or batteries, and thefts of external parts such as wheels,” adds the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. It is a crime of opportunity. Quick on their feet and with their hands, the thieves “can smash a window, reach in and grab an item and be gone in a matter of seconds,” the police say, “before your car theft protection alarm is even activated.”

Of course, no one is blaming the victim, but here’s the dirty little secret contributing to the crime spree. A large number of vehicles targeted by the vehicle break-in artists were unintentionally left unlocked by absentminded owners, police officials say.

You really don’t need to be in a big city, or park under bright lights to have your car plundered by wily thieves, warns Mid-Atlantic. Police in Culpeper, Virginia are investigating a rash of thefts from automobiles in the Lakeview area. By the way, most car break-ins occur on the street, in parking lots, in driveways and in the parking lots of large apartment complexes. The antidote: Never leave valuables, such as wallets, purses, computers, cell phones or jewelry, in plain view.

Here’s the thing: the crafty thieves need less than 20 seconds to break into your vehicle and rifle through it, area law enforcement officials warn. Here’s the best tip in the whole wide world: “Thieves generally won’t waste their time breaking into autos that don’t have valuables in plain sight,” cautions the MPD.

AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at ###

Tips To Avoid Becoming The Latest Victim Of A Car Break-In

The chances of your vehicle being stolen are 1 in 200. But the odds of your becoming the victim of a theft from your car are even higher. When they strike, the thieves are plundering personal items, briefcases, suitcases, purses, money, of course, cellphones, and other electronic devices, such as iPods, iPhones, laptops, and GPS units.

Depending upon the police agency, the crime is classified as “vehicle cloutings,” and “vehicle prowls,” or more simply as “vehicle burglaries” and “vehicle larcenies.” The local police say the crime is both “opportunistic and preventable.”

For your benefit, here are some other important tips from authorities with the Metropolitan Police Department and AAA Mid-Atlantic:

  • Lock your doors and trunk, roll the windows up tight, and close the sun roof.
  • Never leave ANYTHING on display when you leave your vehicle. Even loose change, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, sunglasses, CD’s, cell phones, stereos, cameras, and clothing.
  • Remember, if they can see it, they will steal it.
  • Lock your valuables in your trunk or place them into a locked glove compartment. Hiding items under seats is better than leaving them in plain view, but securing them inside the glove compartment or trunk is a far better deterrent.
  • If you must put valuables in the trunk, place them there before arriving at your parking destination.
  • Park in a well-lit area with plenty of pedestrian traffic if you expect to return to your car after dark.
  • If you have to park in a parking lot, opt for attendant lots. If you have to leave your key with the attendant, only leave the ignition and door key.
  • In high-theft areas, do not rely on just one anti-theft device.
  • If you have a garage, use it. When parked in a garage, lock the garage as well as your vehicle and close the windows.
  • If your vehicle has an alarm or other anti-theft device, use it.
  • Engrave expensive accessories and major parts with your VIN or personal identification number. This aids police in tracing stolen items.
  • Keep a record of all your credit card numbers. Write down the serial numbers, makes and models of your personal property.
  • Watch for suspicious-acting people who are loitering or lurking in the area of parked vehicles. Call 911 and describe the person’s: gender, race, height, weight, clothing and age, license number (if available) or mode of transportation, and an exact location.

The MPD also advises motorists to look for car radios or other sound systems that can operate only in the vehicle it was originally installed in. This reduces the risk of theft, police officials add. “If you can unfasten your sound system and take it with you, or lock it in your trunk, do so. And don’t forget to do the same with your CDs and tapes.”

Contact: John B. Townsend II
Phone: (202) 481-6820

Contact: Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson/ Christopher Falkenhagen
Phone: (202) 481-6820


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