Auto thefts not big problem in Mid-Michigan – The Morning Sun

Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015



In Isabella County, an average of roughly one car per 2,000 residents happen each year.



In Gratiot County, the number is about one car per 2,697 people.



Clare County’s auto theft rate is one vehicle per 3,853 residents.



Gratiot County, with a population of 45,859, was the site of 17 auto thefts in 2014.




Auto thefts in Isabella County, with a population of 83951, last year totaled 42.



In Clare County, population 34,681, was the site of nine auto thefts in 2014.



Auto thefts statewide are down nearly 21 percent from 2010 through 2014, and more than 70 percent since 1986, according to the Auto Theft Prevention Authority, from 72,021 in 1986 to 21,242 in 2014.



By comparison, southeast Michigan’s Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties remain the hotbed for auto thefts; 75 percent of the state’s total thefts take place in the three counties. But the numbers have also declined in 30 years.



Auto thefts in Macomb County have dropped to 1,684 in 2014 from 5,832 in 2014. In Oakland County, thefts have fallen from 9,310 in 1986 to 1,457 in 2014.



While motor vehicle thefts are declining statewide, there are still pockets in Macomb and Oakland counties where thefts remain at problem levels.



Behind The Decrease

Automobile design is part of the reason.



There’s been a significant reduction,” said Lori Conarton, of the Insurance Institute of Michigan. “The many factors include more anti theft devices on them.



“Half the auto thefts in the state occur in Wayne County,” Conarton said. “There’s lots of cars to steal, there’s a demand for the parts. Urban areas, obviously have more significant auto theft problems than suburban or rural areas.



“I think it has gone from individuals stealing cars to sophisticated rings because cars are more sophisticated,” she said. “The newer cars aren’t stolen quite as often. It’s the older cars where they strip them down for parts.”



The Targets

Indeed, the most often stolen brands of cars in 2013, the latest year the list is available, include the 2004 Chevy Impala, 2000 Dodge Caravan, 1999 Chevrolet full size pickup, 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, according to the Michigan Auto Theft Prevention Authority.



The National Insurance Crime Bureau explains the popularity of older models as targets of theft this way:



As a model line ages, its parts become more valuable if the model is not significantly redesigned.



It appears to take thieves three years to fully solve the manufacturer’s theft deterrent systems.



Owners of older cars are less vigilant about installing after-market anti-theft devices and/or locking the vehicle.



The Auto Theft Prevention Authority was founded in Michigan in 1986 through the state police. Then, Michigan ranked second in the country for auto thefts. The authority is funded by a $1 assessment on each insured vehicle.



The authority uses the money it collects for auto theft prevention efforts by law enforcement agencies around the state.



Theft Reporting

Attributing to the decline in auto thefts has been the auto theft squads and the fact that newer vehicles utilize high-tech anti-theft devices making them more difficult to steal but also people who are choosing to report the crimes.



“This being our 30th anniversary, we are going to try and defeat the, ‘I am no snitch mentality,’” said Terri Miller, executive director of Help Eliminate Auto Thefts, an insurer-funded auto theft prevention program.



“The ‘I am no snitch mentality’? That only helps the criminals,” Miller said. “It doesn’t help you or your neighborhood.”



HEAT coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through confidential reporting of stolen vehicles, chop shops, and suspected auto theft activities including insurance fraud, identity theft and carjacking.



Auto theft tips are received 24/7 by a team of specially trained operators at 1 (800) 242-HEAT. Citizens also can submit a tip electronically at 1800242HEAT.com.



Information can be given anonymously.



HEAT provides rewards for tips that lead to an arrest and warrant of individuals involved in a crime. The amount – which can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 – is determined by a committee and a reward check is authorized.



Morning Sun reporter Susan Field contributed to this report.



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