IE working to combat increase in car thefts

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- The Inland Empire has been seeing a spike in auto thefts in recent years, and the region now ranks fifth nationally in number of cases.

Police are warning people that older cars are often easier to steal than newer models.

"Some of the ignition systems are easier to put any key in there and turn it over because they've been worn out," said Lt. Kevin Townsend with the Riverside police.

The top five most stolen vehicles are the Honda Civic, Honda Accord, full size Chevy pickup, Toyota Camry and full size Ford pickup.

To help reduce the chance your car will be stolen, make sure to keep the windows fully up and lock the doors.

Authorities in the Inland Empire say jail overcrowding and AB 109, which allows for the early release of jail inmates, make it harder to reduce the number of auto theft cases because thieves know the punishment is less severe now.

"We've seen the increase, we've heard the complaints from residents, business owners," Townsend said. "We're doing the best we can. We do make a lot of arrests but it's a nonviolent offense and our jails are very crowded."

Riverside offers one program to help residents.

The HEAT, or Helping Eliminate Auto Theft program, is designed for people who don't often drive in the middle of the night. A HEAT sticker in the back window of a car driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when most vehicles are stolen, is likely to get attention from police.
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