Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Even police cars are not immune to auto theft, as shown in this Kunia ditch, but the number of Oahu auto thefts is going down.

Isle auto
thefts drop

The 10.7% decrease in
2004 continues a downward
trend since numbers peaked
at 8,488 in 2002

The number of stolen cars on Oahu continues to drop from a record three years ago, according to the latest statistics from the Honolulu Police Department.

HPD reports that 7,369 vehicles were stolen last year, a 10.7 percent decrease from 8,253 in 2003. In 2002, there were 8,488 auto thefts, a record since police began compiling crime statistics in the early 1970s.

The statistics are a part of HPD's 2004 Annual Report, which is scheduled to be released this summer.

"It's always a relief when the numbers go down," said Lt. Hank Nobriga, of HPD's auto theft detail. "But there's always that feeling we can do better."

He said the drop in auto thefts in 2003 was more dramatic than the totals indicate because that was the year HPD began reporting stolen mopeds as auto thefts, instead of grouping them with bicycle thefts as they had done previously.

"Moped thefts average about 400 a year," he said. "Those got dumped into our totals."


HPD officials said the drop in auto thefts can be partially attributed to the Pit Stop program, which has been operating out of the Pearl City police district, historically the worst area on Oahu for car thefts.

Under that program, which began April 30, 2003, police and prosecutors agreed that any suspect arrested for auto theft in the Pearl City district would be charged and held in the custody of pretrial services, instead of being arrested and released pending an investigation.

According to Pearl City Lt. Derek Shimatsu, who started the Pit Stop program, the immediate arrests have made a difference. He said many auto thieves continue to steal cars until they are sent to prison.

"The intent was to make these people immediately accountable for their actions instead of releasing them into the community so they can continue their crime spree," Shimatsu said. "Our agreement with prosecutors is that if they get picked up in our district, these individuals are charged immediately."

The Pit Stop program is scheduled to expire at the end of this month, but may continue in Pearl City, with plans to expand to Kalihi and urban Honolulu, Shimatsu said.

Some auto theft detectives said another factor in the drop is that the newer model cars are harder to steal, with better technology that prevents thieves from driving off unless they actually have the car keys.

Even so Nobriga noted that his detectives' best allies in the war against auto thieves are car owners.

"So many people think they're safe just because their car is parked in front of their home ... they're not," he said. "People need to take their own precautions, remove their valuables from their vehicles, buy secondary security measures such as car alarms or the Club."

"A little effort on the part of the owner helps more in the long run," he said.

Honolulu Police Department

E-mail to City Desk


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