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    Stanislaus County, CA retakes the No. 1 car theft spot nationwide

    No wonder why they call this place Methdesto.

    Stanislaus County retakes the No. 1 car theft spot nationwide

    last updated: April 22, 2008 08:18:28 AM

    Stanislaus County is back on top, and officials aren't happy about it.

    Once again, the area is the country's hottest spot for stolen vehicles, according to a report released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

    Other places have many more automobiles stolen annually but, when you account for population, Stanislaus County has the highest per capita auto theft rate in the United States.

    "Everybody in my unit is disappointed," said Sgt. Rick Gilstrap of the California Highway Patrol. Gilstrap supervises the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force, a nine- person team with members from local law enforcement agencies, the CHP, the Probation Department and the district attorney's office.

    In 2007, Stanislaus County dropped to fifth in the nation for auto theft, with 28 percent fewer stolen vehicles, after holding the No. 1 spot for three years. It was an improvement, Gilstrap said, but it hadn't met the expectations of task force members.

    "Last year, we thought maybe we'd be out of the top 10. Now, to be back to No. 1 ... ," he trailed off. "All I can say is that, in the office today, it was not a very pleasant place."

    The county had 5,358 cars stolen in 2007, according to the NICB, an Illinois-based nonprofit agency that calculates theft rates by dividing the number of an area's stolen vehicles by its population. Taking population into account, Stanislaus County had 1,048 automobiles stolen per 100,000 people.

    The Las Vegas area trailed just behind, with 1,036 stolen vehicles per 100,000 people. That translated into more than 19,000 thefts in 2007.

    "The report doesn't so much describe the actual vehicle theft problem," said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the NICB. "This report is really a population-based study. It's nothing more scientific than that. The Modesto area lost around 5,000 vehicles. They lose that many in a weekend in Los Angeles."

    Stanislaus County still is well below a peak of 7,071 stolen vehicles reported in 2005.

    San Joaquin County ranked fourth in the nation in this year's report, with a rate of 842 auto thefts per 100,000 people. That's a small improvement from its 2007 rank of No. 2.

    Of the 20 areas most targeted by car thieves last year, 11 were in California. Experts say the valley's methamphetamine problem fuels the car theft problem.

    And mild weather doesn't help. The temperate climate keeps older cars, which often are less secure, on the road for decades, Gilstrap said. Older Saturns, Toyota Camrys from 1988 and Hondas from 1990 to 1994 are some of the models crooks most often steal, he said.

    Bait cars used to bust thieves

    To combat the problem, the auto theft task force continues to use bait cars to reel in thieves and plans to give away steering wheel locks as well as monitor convicted car thieves who are on probation with GPS tracking devices. StanCATT also is trying to make it easier for people to report suspected car thieves via its Web site, www.stancatt.com. A special phone line is planned.

    Local prosecutors continue to push for steeper penalties, higher bails and mandatory minimum sentences for car thieves, said Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager. She said crowded jails and bonds agents who bail out defendants at discounted rates sometimes can thwart prosecutors' intentions.

    "There's only so much we can do," Fladager said. "Stealing a car is not that difficult. If somebody's intent on stealing a car, they will likely succeed."

    But, nationally and locally, the news isn't all grim.

    Vehicle thefts nationwide have dropped for the fourth year in a row, the NICB reports, with auto theft numbers more than 7 percent lower than in 2006.

    In 2008, Modesto police have seen a 28 percent drop in auto thefts compared with last year, which had its highest numbers in February, March and April.

    The city did report a 3 percent drop in its auto theft numbers between 2006 and 2007, but it just wasn't enough, said police Chief Roy Wasden.

    "We have way too many cars stolen in this county," he said. "People need to take their keys out of their cars, secure their vehicles, and use a Club or another anti-theft device."

    Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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    In memory of Robert N. Panos 1955 - 2008 Ceres Police Dept.

  2. #2
    pgg's Avatar
    pgg is offline Damnit, I'm hungry again.
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    At least they are doing it there not here. We still don't have that many here
    'Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a
    delusional, illogical liberal minority, and rabidly
    promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which
    holds forth the proposition that it is entirely
    possible to pick up a turd by the clean end!'

    A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity. Sigmund Freud



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