Car thefts expected to decrease as heat drops

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Law enforcement officials are predicting a gradual decrease in car thefts in the next few months.

In four out of the past five years, summer was a peak time for car thefts. This year, May and June were two of the three most active months for car thefts.

In 2007, June, July and August topped the year, with more than 200 thefts each. Thefts peaked in July, with 238, and gradually decreased afterward.

However, not all years have followed the typical model. In 2009, unlike the three years before it, thefts during the summer months were actually lower. The top months in 2009 were October, January and September.

Augusta law enforcement said there is usually an uptick in automobile theft when the weather is the warmest and the coldest.

"There's a noticeable increase in those months when school's not in session," said Richmond County's sheriff Sgt. Ken Eskew.

Many of the summer car thefts are "crimes of opportunity." There's also an uptick in the number of juvenile car theft suspects and juvenile arrests for theft during the summer, Eskew said.

The targets are often vehicles with keys left inside, he said.

Investigator Billy Dixon calls it "borrowing the car illegally."

Teens are hanging out. They're hot. They're bored. They want to go somewhere, but don't have a way.

They see a car with the keys in the ignition.

Many are drive and dump cases, where vehicles are found abandoned, across town, in less than 24 hours.

"I'm not blaming teenagers," Eskew said. "If you talk to 1,000 teenagers about crime, you may see five to 10 percent are involved in it."

In the colder months, drivers often leave their cars running unattended to warm the interior.

"How long does it take someone to steal your car when it's already running?" Dixon said. "Not long."

While investigators may be able to locate the stolen vehicle, finding the person responsible after the vehicle's been abandoned is more difficult.

"Materials in your car are not conductive to prints," Eskew said.

Burglar alarms can be effective, but more people are becoming numb to the alert.

"If you hear an alarm going off in a parking lot, you might look around but you keep walking," Dixon said.

More new vehicles come equipped with remote starts on the key fob to enable warm-up without being vulnerable to theft, Eskew said.

Stolen vehicle assistance, provided by OnStar, is a way of pinpointing its location and disabling it.

Keyless ignition vehicles are often harder to steal, Eskew noted.

Although the thief might destroy the steering column trying to get it started, the attempt is usually unsuccessful.

Vehicle Thefts By Month
 20102009200820072006
January 158169162150167
February 13195127125113
March 140161124131140
April 121121144184169
May 181114151207137
June 141147161218157
July N/A118130238195
August --149137235161
September --168118209176
October --186163206189
November --119148152151
December --127128126170

 

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office Monthly Crime Statistics