Once he reached the driveway, he found a portion of his steering column on the ground next to a discarded screwdriver. Expletives left his mouth as he realized his truck had been stolen – again.
Roughly five years earlier, when Kleinsasser lived in a Summerville-area apartment, he walked into the parking lot ready to leave in his 1990 Chevrolet pickup. His eyes scanned the lot for his burgundy truck, but it wasn’t there.
“I thought I had made a mistake,” he said. “Once you realize what happened, it makes you feel very violated. I had never been broken into, and that was my first experience with major theft. It made me feel kind of uncomfortable.”
Deputies recovered the 1990 Chevrolet about two months after it had been stolen. It was tucked away in the garage of an abandoned house on Nellieville Road with the engine and transmission missing. His second truck was never recovered.
When the National Insurance Crime Bureau released its annual report on the 10 most stolen vehicles in the country earlier this month, Kleinsasser said he wasn’t surprised to see full-size Chevrolet pickups place third, with 27,809 thefts reported in 2013. They trailed Honda Accords and Honda Civics, which tallied 53,995 and 45,001 thefts.
“They like Chevys and Fords because they have motors that can easily go into a certain type of vehicle that the criminal elements enjoy,” said Kleinsasser, who now drives a less desirable Dodge Dakota. “I totally grasp that.”
In Georgia, the 1996 Honda Accord held on to the No. 1 position, while 1999 Chevrolet and 2005 Ford full-size pickups rounded out the top three. In South Carolina, the 1997 Honda Accord topped the charts, followed by 1999 Ford and 1999 Chevrolet full-size pickups.
Carol Kaplan, the director of public affairs for the agency that produced the report, said the trend involving older cars is easy to explain: Newer cars are harder to steal.
“In the old days, all you had to have was a jimmy to open a car door and then you would get in to hot wire a car,” she said. “That doesn’t work anymore. You have to be pretty sophisticated to learn how to overpower one of these newer locks. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, because we know that it has been done.”
Though it doesn’t specify what types of vehicles were stolen, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has reported more than 404 thefts so far this year, fewer than what was reported at this point in 2013. There were 1,063 cars reported stolen in Richmond County in all of 2013.
Investigator Benjamin Parrish said Honda Accords and Dodge Caravans have been targeted recently in Richmond County. He said he’s noticed a rise in stolen cars popping up at salvage yards to be crushed.
“If it’s an older car and it’s in good shape, you definitely want to have an alarm on it,” he said. “If you can’t afford an alarm, and if it’s going to sit for any period of time, take the battery out of it so even if they try to steal it they can’t get away with it.”
Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said police have to constantly evolve their plans to stay ahead of thieves. His agency reported 49 thefts through June.
“What may be a deterrent today might not be one tomorrow,” he said. “We’re always trying to stay a step ahead.”